What does memento mori mean?
Memento mori means remember you must die. This is something we try to remind ourselves of daily. In this post, I’ll explain how it will help you.
Death and dying – isn’t death a topic for sadness? It seems strange to focus on death when the aim of our content is self-betterment. Especially when often death is the last thing people want to think about.
Well, death has a role to play in the project of being happier and getting more out of the present moment.
Every day you live is a bonus. Our mission here is to help maximise the value you get from each every day.
Our mortality provides us with a higher level of appreciation if we have the correct perspective.
It's likely many of you, especially those under 40, haven’t considered your mortality and definitely haven’t meditated on it.
Those in their 20s may be beginning and seeking identity.
In your 30s you’ll have times of discovery and new beginnings, maybe starting a family. Just like in the Heroes Journey.
Questioning our existence used to form the lifeblood of philosophy, considered by all. Now it is barely considered outside of pretentious parties.
Consider the following – you are going to die and everyone you’ve ever known is going to die.
You know this but you may be in varying levels of denial, after all, look at the miracles of modern science.
So, let's talk about our relationship with death…
“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time” David M. Eagleman
You are a visitor here, a drop in the ocean. A speck of sand out of all the beaches across the world and there will be a time when no matter your significance, all memory of you will cease to exist.
Everything you have strived for and aim to strive for in the future will all amount to nothing.
Your very self in future will cease to exist.
It would take one dramatic moment for the collection of particles, cells, blood, bones and skin that you are to stop existing. You are more like a sound that occurs and disappears than anything permanent.
Unfortunately, our death doesn’t give us any closure like the end of a novel or movie. The train stops suddenly, or it may slow over time to a halt. Unlikely to give us the time to accomplish what we set out to do at the start of the journey.
Now all that is appropriately depressing, but we are talking about death… what did you expect.
What comes next though is how you can harness your understanding of your fleeting existence to power you.
You should remember that since the moment you were born you have been dying. Time has been progressing and you have been moving closer and closer to your train stopping.
So far, I hope you have realised that dying isn’t so bad, and I sincerely hope you have enjoyed your journey so far.
How did the Stoics use memento mori?
“This is our big mistake: to think we look forward to death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.” – Seneca
Our stoic friends and the Romans did just this. At their highest moments, the Romans used to make sure they had memento mori whispered in their ears. At their greatest moment of triumph, they wanted to be reminded that they are mortal, they are still human, and that life is short.
When you awake in the morning, you are lucky… it’s a bonus. You should be happy as you get an extra go.
What did Marcus Aurelius say about memento mori?
‘You could leave right now. Let that determine what you do say and think’ Marcus Aurelius
That should give you some fuel for tomorrow morning's gratitude journal.
Life is fragile, more so in the ancient world but even then, they chose deliberately to remind themselves of this.
Death as we have become more successful as a society has receded from the forefront of our consciousness. Shakespeare famously said every 3rd thought would be of his grave. Other than the occasional hypochondriac today this is not the case.
If we contemplate that we don’t know how much time we have left daily, it helps us make the most of what we DO have…
It's undoubtable that we take life for granted sometimes and let days pass us.
“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” — Seneca
How can we use memento mori?
So, the actionable advice we can give is…
Memento mori meaning remember you must die. Keep this front of mind and let it guide your decisions, so you don’t take what you have today for granted. Make the most out of your time left here, using it in a way that matters. That you need to decide for yourself.
Use this reminder to help you act and be the best version of yourself in your relationships.
That's we we created our memento mori coin as a helpful reminder,
Meditate on this daily and if you need a reminder, we have a surprise coming for you. (We weren’t ballsy enough to get the memento mori tattoo just yet)