A person contemplating on a hill

A reflection on Memento Mori

In his article on Stoic Themes, Courtney introduced one of the key themes of Memento Mori. To briefly recap, Memento Mori means remembering that we have to die. This concept, each time I read or listen about it, really hits home to me.

It’s very easy to get caught up in our own world at times. As we get busy in our day, we can move from putting out one fire to the next, and before we know it, the day is done. We woke up, worked out, ate some food, went to work, attended an urgent meeting, got home, made dinner for the kids, went to bed. Then it’s the weekend and it’s time to catch up with family and friends. Weeks turn into months. Then, just like that, the year is over. Sure, we’ve had a lot of fun. But we have also moved closer to death.

Philosophy is about how one should live their day. Yes, we might have had fun, but have we conducted ourselves in the right way? Have we made progress towards the things that matter to us? Will we look back with regret on our death bed?

I also acknowledge the audacity of my statement above. I’m expecting that I’ll be on my death bed one day in the very, very far future. Whilst I certainly felt invincible in my 20’s, I don’t anymore. Part of that has come with age and life experience, and part of me embracing a philosophy of live. I still hold on to the belief that I have at least 50 years left. I forget about Memento Mori for a while, until I’m reminded of it again. That’s when I’m at times struck by a realisation I have moved away from where I want to be, and that I’m not even guaranteed tomorrow.

Everything, including our bodies, is on loan. One day we will have to return it. When that happens is most certainly not up to us. Yes, I can engage in healthy activities and have a preferred indifference of increased health and therefore lifespan, but it’s not guaranteed. That’s why we have to remind ourselves so we are present in moments during the day and cherish the fact that we are able to experience them in the here and now. That might be going on walk with your partner and feeling the warmth of their hand as you hold it. It could be watching friend’s children draw and be a part of their excitement and creation. It can be curling up into your hoodie and immersing yourself into a good book, getting lost in the moment. Take action towards the goals you want, rather than what others want.

At the end of the day, we need to constantly make sure we are aiming in the right direction, or sailing towards the right port, as Seneca wrote. If our actions are aligned towards our philosophy, we have a long life. If not, life will end up being quite short, and in the blink of an eye we could miss it. 






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