There may be nothing extra sure in life than the knowledge of demise. It is the nice equalizer of the world, and it’s blind – irrespective of if an individual is wealthy or poor, wholesome or unhealthy, good or unhealthy, smart or ignorant, any sentient being that experiences life should additionally expertise demise. It behooves anybody who needs to enhance themself to be conscious of demise and one’s mortality.
Does That Appear Somber?
It would not need to be you probably have the suitable mindset. You may select to reside in relative consolation, keep away from most dangers of hurt, assume the story is unheroically about you, and arrive on demise’s shore comparatively secure and intact, unmarred by the labor of nice pursuits in service to a trigger larger than your existence.
On the identical time, you might be experiencing the burden of remorse for by no means realizing the true extent of your capabilities.
However, you’ll be able to select to go away behind a legacy outlined by a life lived with deep objective, that means, ethical character, convictions, compassion, and braveness, sturdy sufficient to encourage individuals lengthy after your flesh and bones return to mud and particulate silence.
Innumerable individuals all through human historical past have mirrored on demise as a method to expertise life and reside it to their fullest potential. The observe has had many names in lots of languages over the millennia, however nowadays it is most also known as Memento Mori.
A Temporary Historical past of Memento Mori
Memento Mori interprets to, “Keep in mind, it’s essential to die.” The observe has a really lengthy historical past that crosses cultures, continents, religions, and philosophies: from the traditional philosophers of Greece to Roman generals, Buddhist monks to Islamic Sufis – meditation on demise allowed all of them to pursue life.
In Plato’s Phaedo, the nice thinker Socrates states earlier than he’s about to die:
“…he who has lived as a real thinker has cause to be of fine cheer when he’s about to die, and that after demise he could hope to obtain the best good within the different world…For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is prone to be misunderstood by different males; they don’t understand that he’s ever pursuing demise and dying…”
The instance that Socrates set throughout his life and earlier than his execution would go away a long-lasting legacy on the whole thing of Western civilization and result in the delivery of many alternative faculties of philosophy.
One faculty particularly – Stoicism – turning into well-known as a sensible faculty of philosophy that careworn the significance of considering demise. The surviving writings of the traditional Stoics are stuffed with admonitions to recollect demise and the three most well-known Stoics:
The slave, Epictetus The Roman statesman, Seneca The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius
All have one thing to say about demise.
“All that you simply see will quickly perish; those that witness this perishing will quickly perish themselves. Die in excessive previous age or die earlier than your time – it’s going to all be the identical.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.33
“Preserve the prospect of demise, exile and all such obvious tragedies earlier than you daily – particularly demise – and you’ll by no means have an abject thought, or need something to extra.”
– Epictetus, Enchiridion, 21
“I am endeavoring to reside daily as if it have been an entire life. I don’t certainly snatch it up as if it have been my final; I do regard it, nonetheless, as if it’d even be my final. The current letter is written to you with this in thoughts as if demise have been about to name me away within the very act of writing. I’m able to depart, and I shall get pleasure from life simply because I’m not over-anxious as to the long run date of my departure.”
– Seneca, Letters From a Stoic, Letter 61
The traditional Romans additionally practiced the contemplation of demise, Memento Mori being a Latin phrase.
Memento Mori comes from a Roman custom wherein a basic would participate in a triumphal procession via town, upon returning to Rome after a big victory. To be the topic of such a march was an ideal honor and the will of many formidable troopers.
Because the triumphant basic was carried via town in his horse-drawn chariot to the nice applause and reward of the individuals of Rome, a slave would stand behind him, holding a crown over his head and whispering, “Respice publish te. Hominem te memento. Memento mori!”
“Look behind you. Keep in mind you might be mortal. Keep in mind it’s essential to die!”
This custom was a possibility for the overall to throw a grand celebration, and it allowed him some self-promotion, which may come in useful ought to he determine to run for political workplace sometime. It is a bit powerful working for workplace when no one’s heard of you, in any case.
The aim of the slave whispering in his ear was to maintain the overall’s ego and perspective in examine all through the complete celebration, lest he forgets himself and does one thing disgraceful and offensive to the gods.
A couple of hundred years later, throughout the late Center Ages, Memento Mori had developed into an artwork fashion referred to as Danse Macabre or the Dance of Loss of life.
At this level in historical past, Europe had simply been devastated by the Black Loss of life pandemic, with essentially the most fatalities ever recorded in human historical past; demise was on everybody’s thoughts.
The Danse Macabre was a meditation on the universality of demise: irrespective of how wealthy or how poor one is, demise comes for us all.
The artwork would normally function a personification of demise (a skeleton or corpse) main individuals from totally different stations in life – usually a pope, king, emperor, laborer, and little one – in a dance to their graves.
Within the 17th century, Dutch artists used a mode of nonetheless life portray referred to as vanitas artwork (from the primary chapter of Ecclesiastes, “All is self-importance.”) as a Memento Mori. The art work would function skulls, rotting fruit, candles, hourglasses, useless and wilted flowers, and extra atop tables as highly effective imagery to remind the viewer of demise.
By the 19th century, Memento Mori had moved from work to jewellery, with individuals from all walks of life carrying rings that includes skulls, coffins, the phrase “Memento Mori,” or a mix of the three as a relentless reminder of the wearer’s mortality.
Although not practically as prevalent within the minds of the overall populace because it as soon as was, Memento Mori is having a contemporary resurgence. Persons are shopping for Memento Mori medallions to hold with them of their pockets as a relentless reminder that they are going to someday die.
Such well-known figures as Tim Ferriss, Casey Neistat, and extra carry a Memento Mori medallion with them, and even Memento Mori rings are making a comeback.
I am part of this contemporary resurgence.
Memento Mori and The Twelve Labors Venture
Memento Mori is the device that I exploit to beat the challenges in my life and discover the inspiration to push via any impediment that I see earlier than me.
After I tackle bodily challenges as a part of my Twelve Labors Venture, Memento Mori is what retains me grounded, centered on the current, and conscious of what really issues in a universe that appears to be unraveling.
In 2016, for my fifth labor, I set out alone within the barren wilderness of the northern Mojave Desert to lift consciousness of veteran suicide by pulling a 2.5-ton pickup truck throughout Loss of life Valley.
With a panorama as lovely as it’s bleak, my solely companions all through the 22-mile problem have been stones sculpted over the millennia by the desert wind and rain, dunes that mirrored the solar’s blinding mild, the searing warmth that burns something that enters the Valley, and my ideas.
Every mile that I pulled the truck via the desert represented one of many 22 lives which are misplaced every day to veteran suicide.
With each step I took and each inch of floor that I gained, Loss of life Valley would attempt somewhat more durable to persuade me to take off the chest harness and stop the problem; it solely ever received hotter and drier because the journey progressed.
Naturally, the solitude that I skilled throughout the problem pressured me to confront the worst of myself – my doubts, my fears, my insecurities, and the whole lot I had ever come to remorse in my life.
I’d take a step and listen to a voice, “Hand over! There isn’t a disgrace in quitting.”
I’d take one other step and inform myself, “Memento Mori! Keep in mind, it’s essential to die! Keep in mind why you might be right here!”
Reflecting on my mortality and the reminiscence of those that we have misplaced to suicide fortified my steps and made the seemingly unattainable, potential.
The dichotomy between demise and the current second turned extra obvious than ever, opening my view to views and insights that by no means earlier than occurred to me.
It was the catalyst I wanted to regain my momentum and embrace my destiny second by second with a full coronary heart and unyielding resolve.
Being alone in Loss of life Valley with a 2.5-ton pickup truck strapped to your again is a surefire method to come head to head together with your mortality, and the observe of Memento Mori is what allowed me to remain centered on a objective that was larger than myself. I wasn’t striving for recognition once I hauled a truck throughout the desert.
I wished to lift the attention of an alarming downside that is plaguing veterans. Whether or not or not I accomplished the labor or another person did was irrelevant, as long as individuals have been made conscious of the trigger that spurred the problem.
I may have died at any level throughout my trek via the desert – I may die at any second, actually – the popularity, the accolades, it will all be meaningless to me after that.
The trigger, nonetheless, would live-on.
“On fame. Take a look at their minds, the character of their thought and what they search or keep away from. And see how, simply as drifting sands always overlay the earlier sand, so in our lives what we as soon as did could be very shortly coated over by subsequent layers.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.34
How Memento Mori can Spur motion
Memento Mori is not only a device to inspire your self to pull a truck via a hellish panorama – it will probably additionally act as a catalyst for motivation and productiveness daily.
Procrastination is a problem that most individuals face every day, and I am no exception. Why trouble getting away from bed each morning to face an uncomfortable world when consolation could be discovered already underneath the blankets? Why trouble doing something in any respect?
What sort of life would that be?
“So it’s: we’re not given a brief life however we make it brief, and we’re not ill-supplied however wasteful of it.”
– Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
Seneca knew that we so typically waste life clinging to idleness and comforts that solely serve to distract us from fulfilling our highest potential.
A life lived in pursuit of consolation whereas pushing aside our responsibility is a life spent losing the finite period of time now we have. Discover consolation within the uncomfortable, and bear in mind it’s essential to die: why waste your time on minutiae when your time is brief?
If you wish to meet particular health objectives, Memento Mori is the motivator it is advisable get to the gymnasium (or maybe your own home gymnasium for now) and attain these objectives.
Whenever you get up within the morning, set an affirmation for your self that you’ll do what it is advisable do to fulfill your objectives, whatever the obstacles it’s possible you’ll face.
Remind your self of your mortality and that you’d reasonably not spend the dear time you have got left watching tv or sleeping.
That is what I inform myself every day earlier than I practice, and it is what you’ll be able to say to your self, too.
In case your objective is to have a more healthy food plan, Memento Mori can assist you to develop more healthy consuming and consuming habits. Life is brief – would you like your remaining moments spent in a drunken haze? I doubt it.
Certain, we’re all fated to die someday, however that does not imply that we should always use each second now we have in hedonistic pursuits. The cake is nice, however ought to we eat it for each meal? In fact not.
Overindulgence in unhealthy consuming and consuming will solely deliver demise sooner, whereas wholesome habits will serve to maintain life lengthy and assist you attain your fullest potential.
A wholesome physique makes for a wholesome thoughts, in any case.
Memento Mori and World Occasions
The world is at the moment experiencing turbulence that hasn’t been felt in a very long time. Local weather change is inflicting extremes in climate situations which have led to intense droughts, huge forest and bush fires, and hurricanes, the like of which humanity has not seen since biblical occasions.
We’re in the course of a world pandemic, with COVID-19 spreading via cities paying homage to the Black Plague of the medieval interval. Governments are utilizing the concern and distraction brought on by the pandemic to push agendas on each ends of the political spectrum.
American regulation enforcement is underneath magnified scrutiny on account of instances the place extreme makes use of of pressure and lack of human decency resulted in undue demise. These items are occurring inside an environment of violent riots and peaceable protests towards racial injustice and police brutality.
Some social points are being conflated with broader ones to embolden actions and assaults towards sure teams. In distinction, different vital points are being drowned out by a deafening silence solely for his or her lack of utility or mere comfort throughout the in style narrative.
As an American with deep love and hope for this nation, who additionally occurs to be an individual of shade, allow us to tread via these troubled waters collectively.
I imagine that the best adversary to justice and inequality for all persons are the unacknowledged unions between indifference and management, ignorance and energy, and apathy and concern.
Within the phrases of the American novelist and activist, James Baldwin:
“Not the whole lot that’s confronted could be modified, however nothing could be modified till it’s confronted.”
We should have the braveness to combat and disintegrate these shadow alliances right this moment and hereafter, lengthy after the media strikes on from it, and it’s not trending.
As Og Mandino as soon as wrote:
“Tomorrow is simply discovered within the calendar of fools.”
Memento Mori, as a observe throughout this sophisticated time in historical past, permits us to face our fears, flaws, and failures individually and as a rustic. These occasions compel purposeful motion with a way of urgency, not from a spot of hate or vengeance, however from a spot of empathy and compassion underneath the premise that today, this hour, this second is all now we have.
Tomorrow isn’t a promise however a mere thought—an assumption of an unsure future time and place arising within the current.
These actions embrace defending individuals’s proper to criticize our nation’s shortcomings and peacefully protest them whereas supporting the constitutional ideas upon which America stands—all throughout the identical breath of ardour and wholehearted conviction.
We’re all dying from a continual situation referred to as life. In reality, each second, we lose to laziness, procrastination, or indifference eternally belongs to demise.
Each alternative to do good on this planet, no matter an individual’s race, politics, faith, or social class, turns into a present once we embrace the truth that each human on earth will someday expertise the identical lack of family members and struggling such as you.
It is smart to be sort to each individual we encounter throughout these advanced occasions once we remind ourselves that demise is the ultimate arbiter.
Out of the 4 Stoic virtues of knowledge, braveness, temperance, and justice, Marcus Aurelius felt that justice was an important of all of them.
“And a dedication to justice in your individual acts. Which suggests: thought and motion ensuing within the widespread good. What you have been born to do.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.31
When confronted with a type of turmoil that we have not seen for generations, Memento Mori could be the information that helps us navigate via the current local weather.
Each time you watch present occasions on the information or witness injustice taking place in entrance of you, you have got a selection between motion or inaction.
Reflection on our mortality can enable us to see the larger image, face injustice like a real Stoic, and current options primarily based on cause and sound judgment.
We should die, it is true, however should we die having executed nothing for the good thing about the larger good? No. Our lives have that means once we reside in response to our ideas and rise up for what is correct and good on this planet.
Loss of life involves everybody, that is for certain – there is not any level in worrying about when or the way it will come when essentially the most unsure a part of life is how we select to reside it.
In any case, demise is simply the top underneath the presumption that the story is solely about you. Our good deeds and power of character are immortal, standing as residing monuments in these we encourage—extra highly effective than mere phrases on a tombstone can ever be.
There is a Greek proverb that I really feel superbly exemplifies the purpose I’m making an attempt to make:
“A society grows nice when previous males plant bushes whose shade they know they shall by no means sit in.”
Possibly we’re not all previous but, but when we wish our society to develop, then we should plant the seeds of justice and love in order that future generations can benefit from the shade of those bushes.
Doing so is a selection that we should make, totally conscious of the truth that demise involves us all finally, however the penalties of our selections reside on on this planet and have an effect on the generations that observe.
“It’s possible you’ll go away this life at any second; have this chance in your thoughts in all that you simply do or say or assume.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.11
Taking the recommendation of Marcus Aurelius, we are able to let the inevitability of our demise inform our lifestyle. With each single selection we make and each single motion we take, we are able to view it in mild of our demise earlier than we make that selection or take that motion. Ask your self these questions:
“Do I wish to be remembered as the one who turned away from injustice?”
“Am I okay with being the reason for inequality and struggling?”
“Do I actually really feel detached to the plight of the oppressed?”
When society lacks correct management, it’s essential to be taught to look to your ideas to steer your self.
Dwelling in response to your ideas could trigger you to face alone towards a crowd; it will probably result in concern and doubt, and can nearly definitely deliver the stress down on you from particular person members of society – however it’s essential to stand resolute.
If you cannot stand agency in your convictions whereas making an attempt to enhance society and crumple on the first signal of pushback or be part of the group when it acts towards your ideas, then you have not stood for something in any respect. In chapter 24 of the Enchiridion, Epictetus has the next to say about benefitting communities:
“Nicely, what is going to my career in the neighborhood be?’ No matter place you might be geared up to fill, as long as you protect the person of belief and integrity. When you lose that in your zeal to be a public benefactor, what use ultimately will you be to the neighborhood upon getting been rendered shameless and corrupt?”
To that finish, we should stand as much as human indecency within the type of violence and rioting.
What would you hear in case you went round your neighborhood and instructed individuals that you simply robbed their companies for his or her profit and destroyed their properties to guard their rights? It is unlikely that you’d face gratitude from victims of violence and theft, do not you assume?
Memento Mori could be the catalyst for motion, nevertheless it may also be the catalyst for restraint. Use it to remind your self of what kind of habits you need individuals to recollect. Simply as you’ll be able to ask your self questions that can assist you take motion, you may as well ask questions that promote restraint:
“Do I wish to be remembered as the one who destroyed somebody’s livelihood?”
“Am I prepared to sacrifice my convictions simply to fulfill the mob’s lust for violence?”
“Will this assist my case or damage it?”
Memento Mori would be the information that reminds you that there’s all the time an even bigger image and that it’s not all the time smart to behave, simply as it’s not all the time smart to stay inactive. Epictetus in chapter 33 of the Enchiridion as soon as once more admonishes us to be agency in our convictions:
“Decide on the kind of individual you wish to be and stick with it, whether or not alone or in firm.”
When you have got determined who you wish to be, Memento Mori will assist you to stay to it, reminding you when to behave and when to not.
It takes braveness and sacrifice to do one thing for a trigger larger than your self, however you will not lose your self to the baser instincts of the ego as long as you bear in mind this:
“Look behind you. Keep in mind you might be mortal. Keep in mind it’s essential to die!”