There’s nothing extra sure in life than the understanding of loss of life. It is the good equalizer of the world, and it’s blind–no matter if an individual is wealthy or poor, wholesome or unhealthy, good or unhealthy, clever or ignorant, any sentient being that experiences life should additionally expertise loss of life. It behooves anybody who needs to enhance themself to be conscious of loss of life and one’s mortality.
Does That Appear Somber?
It does not should be you probably have the appropriate mindset. You may select to dwell in relative consolation, keep away from most dangers of hurt, assume the story is unheroically about you, and arrive on loss of life’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’re experiencing the burden of remorse for by no means understanding the true extent of your capabilities.
Then again, you possibly can select to go away behind a legacy outlined by a life lived with deep objective, which means, ethical character, convictions, compassion, and braveness, robust 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 loss of life as a technique to expertise life and dwell it to their fullest potential. The follow 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, you need to die.” The follow 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 loss of life allowed all of them to pursue life.
In Plato’s Phaedo, the good thinker Socrates states earlier than he’s about to die: “…he who has lived as a real thinker has purpose to be of fine cheer when he’s about to die, and that after loss of life 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 loss of life and dying…”
The instance that Socrates set throughout his life and earlier than his execution would depart a long-lasting legacy on the whole thing of Western civilization and result in the delivery of many various colleges of philosophy. One faculty in particular–Stoicism–becoming well-known as a sensible faculty of philosophy that harassed the significance of considering loss of life. The surviving writings of the traditional Stoics are stuffed with admonitions to recollect loss of life 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 loss of life.
“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 will all be the identical.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.33
“Maintain the prospect of loss of life, exile and all such obvious tragedies earlier than you each day–especially death–and you’ll by no means have an abject thought, or want something to extra.” –Epictetus, Enchiridion, 21
“I am endeavoring to dwell every single day as if it had been a whole life. I don’t certainly snatch it up as if it had been my final; I do regard it, nevertheless, as if it would even be my final. The current letter is written to you with this in thoughts as if loss of life had 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 longer term date of my departure.” –Seneca, Letters From a Stoic, Letter 61
The traditional Romans additionally practiced the contemplation of loss of life, Memento Mori being a Latin phrase.
Memento Mori comes from a Roman custom during which a normal would participate in a triumphal procession by way of the town, upon returning to Rome after a big victory. To be the topic of such a march was an important honor and the will of many bold troopers.
Because the triumphant normal was carried by way of the town in his horse-drawn chariot to the good 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’re mortal. Keep in mind you need to die!”
This custom was a chance for the overall to throw a grand celebration, and it allowed him some self-promotion, which may come in useful ought to he resolve to run for political workplace sometime. It is a bit robust working for workplace when no person’s heard of you, in spite of everything.
The aim of the slave whispering in his ear was to maintain the overall’s ego and perspective in test all through all the celebration, lest he forgets himself and does one thing disgraceful and offensive to the gods.
Just a few hundred years later, throughout the late Center Ages, Memento Mori had developed into an artwork type often called Danse Macabre or the Dance of Dying. At this level in historical past, Europe had simply been devastated by the Black Dying pandemic, with probably the most fatalities ever recorded in human historical past; loss of life was on everybody’s thoughts.
The Danse Macabre was a meditation on the universality of loss of life: irrespective of how wealthy or how poor one is, loss of life comes for us all. The artwork would often function a personification of loss of life (a skeleton or corpse) main individuals from completely different stations in life–typically a pope, king, emperor, laborer, and child–in a dance to their graves.
Within the 17th century, Dutch artists used a method of nonetheless life portray often called vanitas artwork (from the primary chapter of Ecclesiastes, “All is self-importance.”) as a Memento Mori. The paintings would function skulls, rotting fruit, candles, hourglasses, lifeless and wilted flowers, and extra atop tables as highly effective imagery to remind the viewer of loss of life.
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 almost 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 at some point 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 Mission
Memento Mori is the instrument that I exploit to beat the challenges in my life and discover the inspiration to push by way of any impediment that I see earlier than me. Once I tackle bodily challenges as a part of my Twelve Labors Mission, Memento Mori is what retains me grounded, centered on the current, and conscious of what actually 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 boost consciousness of veteran suicide by pulling a 2.5-ton pickup truck throughout Dying Valley. With a panorama as stunning as it’s bleak, my solely companions all through the 22-mile problem had been stones sculpted over the millennia by the desert wind and rain, dunes that mirrored the solar’s blinding gentle, the searing warmth that burns something that enters the Valley, and my ideas.
Every mile that I pulled the truck by way of the desert represented one of many 22 lives which might be misplaced every day to veteran suicide. With each step I took and each inch of floor that I gained, Dying Valley would attempt just a little more durable to persuade me to take off the chest harness and stop the problem; it solely ever acquired hotter and drier because the journey progressed. Naturally, the solitude that I skilled throughout the problem compelled me to confront the worst of myself–my doubts, my fears, my insecurities, and every thing 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, you need to die! Keep in mind why you’re right here!”
Reflecting on my mortality and the reminiscence of those that we have misplaced to suicide fortified my steps and made the seemingly inconceivable, potential. The dichotomy between loss of life 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 Dying Valley with a 2.5-ton pickup truck strapped to your again is a surefire technique to come nose to nose along with your mortality, and the follow of Memento Mori is what allowed me to remain centered on a aim that was greater than myself. I wasn’t striving for recognition when I hauled a truck throughout the desert.
I needed to boost 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 had been made conscious of the trigger that spurred the problem. I may have died at any level throughout my trek by way of the desert–I may die at any second, really–the recognition, the accolades, it will all be meaningless to me after that.
The trigger, nevertheless, 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 instrument to encourage your self to pull a truck by way of a hellish landscape–it may well additionally act as a catalyst for motivation and productiveness every single day.
Procrastination is a problem that most individuals face day by day, and I am no exception. Why hassle getting off the bed each morning to face an uncomfortable world when consolation could be discovered already underneath the blankets? Why hassle doing something in any respect?
What sort of life would that be?
“So it’s: we aren’t given a brief life however we make it brief, and we aren’t 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 laying aside our responsibility is a life spent losing the finite period of time now we have. Discover consolation within the uncomfortable, and keep in mind you need to die: why waste your time on trivia when your time is brief?
If you wish to meet particular health objectives, Memento Mori is the motivator it’s worthwhile to get to the gymnasium (or maybe your property gymnasium for now) and attain these objectives. Once you get up within the morning, set an affirmation for your self that you’ll do what it’s worthwhile to do to fulfill your objectives, whatever the obstacles chances are you’ll face. Remind your self of your mortality and that you’d quite not spend the valuable time you might have left watching tv or sleeping.
That is what I inform myself every day earlier than I prepare, and it is what you possibly can say to your self, too.
In case your aim is to have a more healthy weight loss plan, Memento Mori can assist you to develop more healthy consuming and consuming habits. Life is short–do you need your last moments spent in a drunken haze? I doubt it.
Certain, we’re all fated to die at some point, 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? After all not. Overindulgence in unhealthy consuming and consuming will solely carry loss of life sooner, whereas wholesome habits will serve to maintain life lengthy and assist you to attain your fullest potential.
A wholesome physique makes for a wholesome thoughts, in spite of everything.
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 circumstances which have led to intense droughts, large forest and bush fires, and hurricanes, the like of which humanity has not seen since biblical instances.
We’re in the course of a world pandemic, with COVID-19 spreading by way of cities paying homage to the Black Plague of the medieval interval. Governments are utilizing the concern and distraction attributable to the pandemic to push agendas on each ends of the political spectrum.
American legislation enforcement is underneath magnified scrutiny because of circumstances the place extreme makes use of of power and lack of human decency resulted in undue loss of life. 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 standard narrative.
As an American with deep love and hope for this nation, who additionally occurs to be an individual of coloration, allow us to tread by way of these troubled waters collectively. I imagine that the best adversary to justice and inequality for all individuals 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 every thing that’s confronted could be modified, however nothing could be modified till it’s confronted.”
We will need to have the braveness to combat and disintegrate these shadow alliances right now and hereafter, lengthy after the media strikes on from it, and it’s now not trending.
As Og Mandino as soon as wrote, “tomorrow is barely discovered within the calendar of fools.”
Memento Mori, as a follow throughout this difficult 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 at the present time, this hour, this second is all now we have.
Tomorrow just 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 rules upon which America stands—all throughout the identical breath of ardour and wholehearted conviction.
We’re all dying from a continual situation known as life. In fact, each second, we lose to laziness, procrastination, or indifference ceaselessly belongs to loss of life. Each alternative to do good on the earth, no matter an individual’s race, politics, faith, or social class, turns into a present after we embrace the truth that each human on earth will at some point expertise the identical lack of family members and struggling such as you. It is smart to be form to each particular person we encounter throughout these complicated instances after we remind ourselves that loss of life is the ultimate arbiter.
Out of the 4 Stoic virtues of knowledge, braveness, temperance, and justice, Marcus Aurelius felt that justice was a very powerful of all of them.
“And a dedication to justice in your individual acts. Which suggests: thought and motion ensuing within the frequent good. What you had been born to do.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.31
When confronted with a form of turmoil that we’ve not seen for generations, Memento Mori could be the information that helps us navigate by way of the current local weather. Each time you watch present occasions on the information or witness injustice taking place in entrance of you, you might have a alternative between motion or inaction. Reflection on our mortality can permit us to see the larger image, face injustice like a real Stoic, and current options based mostly on purpose and sound judgment.
We should die, it is true, however should we die having completed nothing for the advantage of the larger good? No. Our lives have which means after we dwell in accordance with our rules and arise for what is correct and good on the earth. Dying involves everybody, that is for sure–there’s no level in worrying about when or the way it will come when probably the most unsure a part of life is how we select to dwell it.
In spite of everything, loss of life is barely the tip underneath the presumption that the story is solely about you. Our good deeds and energy of character are immortal, standing as dwelling 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.”
Perhaps 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 alternative that we should make, absolutely conscious of the truth that loss of life involves us all finally, however the penalties of our decisions dwell on on the earth and have an effect on the generations that observe.
“You might depart 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 alternative we make and each single motion we take, we are able to view it in gentle of our loss of life earlier than we make that alternative or take that motion. Ask your self these questions:
“Do I need to be remembered as the one who turned away from injustice?” “Am I okay with being the reason for inequality and struggling?” “Do I really really feel detached to the plight of the oppressed?”
When society lacks correct management, you need to be taught to look to your rules to steer your self. Residing in accordance with your rules could trigger you to face alone towards a crowd; it may well result in concern and doubt, and can nearly actually carry the stress down on you from particular person members of society–but you need 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 a part of the gang when it acts towards your rules, 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’s going to my occupation locally be?’ No matter place you’re geared up to fill, as long as you protect the person of belief and integrity. In case you lose that in your zeal to be a public benefactor, what use ultimately will you be to the group after you have 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 group and informed 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, however it can be the catalyst for restraint. Use it to remind your self of what sort of habits you need individuals to recollect. Simply as you possibly can ask your self questions that can assist you take motion, you may as well ask questions that promote restraint:
“Do I need 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 at all times a much bigger image and that it’s not at all times clever to behave, simply as it’s not at all times clever to stay inactive. Epictetus in chapter 33 of the Enchiridion as soon as once more admonishes us to be agency in our convictions:
“Choose the kind of particular person you need to be and keep on with it, whether or not alone or in firm.”
When you might have determined who you need to be, Memento Mori will assist you to 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 keep in mind this:
“Look behind you. Keep in mind you’re mortal. Keep in mind you need to die!”