Memento Mori: A Simple Practice for a Complex Time

There is practically nothing extra certain in lifetime than the certainty of dying. It truly is the fantastic equalizer of the globe, and it is blind – no make a difference if a individual is loaded or bad, healthy or unhealthy, excellent or terrible, intelligent or ignorant, any sentient becoming that activities lifetime have to also encounter dying. It behooves any person who needs to enhance themself to be aware of dying and one’s mortality.


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Does That Seem to be Somber?

It does not have to be if you have the suitable attitude. You can select to live in relative convenience, prevent most threats of harm, suppose the story is unheroically about you, and arrive on death’s shore reasonably protected and intact, unmarred by the labor of fantastic pursuits in company to a bring about higher than your existence.


At the same time, you are enduring the burden of regret for under no circumstances recognizing the legitimate extent of your capabilities.


On the other hand, you can select to depart powering a legacy defined by a lifetime lived with deep intent, this means, moral character, convictions, compassion, and bravery, solid adequate to inspire people today extended just after your flesh and bones return to dust and particulate silence.


Countless people today through human historical past have reflected on dying as a way to encounter lifetime and live it to their fullest probable. The practice has had a lot of names in a lot of languages around the millennia, but these times it really is most normally referred to as Memento Mori.


A Transient Record of Memento Mori

Memento Mori interprets to, “Recall, you have to die.” The practice has a really extended historical past that crosses cultures, continents, religions, and philosophies: from the ancient philosophers of Greece to Roman generals, Buddhist monks to Islamic Sufis – meditation on dying authorized them all to pursue lifetime.


In Plato’s Phaedo, the fantastic philosopher Socrates states in advance of he is about to die:


 “…he who has lived as a legitimate philosopher has explanation to be of excellent cheer when he is about to die, and that just after dying he may possibly hope to obtain the greatest excellent in the other globe…For I deem that the legitimate disciple of philosophy is probable to be misunderstood by other adult men they do not perceive that he is at any time pursuing dying and dying…”


The example that Socrates established all through his lifetime and in advance of his execution would depart a long lasting legacy on the entirety of Western civilization and lead to the birth of a lot of unique faculties of philosophy.


A single faculty in individual – Stoicism – turning out to be effectively-identified as a useful faculty of philosophy that stressed the relevance of contemplating dying. The surviving writings of the ancient Stoics are crammed with admonitions to recall dying and the 3 most effectively-identified Stoics:



  1. The slave, Epictetus
  2. The Roman statesman, Seneca
  3. The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius


All have one thing to say about dying.


“All that you see will before long perish these who witness this perishing will before long perish them selves. Die in serious old age or die in advance of your time – it will all be the same.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, nine.33


“Keep the prospect of dying, exile and all such apparent tragedies in advance of you each working day – particularly dying – and you will under no circumstances have an abject imagined, or wish anything to excessive.”

– Epictetus, Enchiridion, 21


I am endeavoring to live each working day as if it were being a total lifetime. I do not in truth snatch it up as if it were being my very last I do regard it, however, as if it could possibly even be my very last. The current letter is prepared to you with this in brain as if dying were being about to get in touch with me away in the really act of creating. I am ready to depart, and I shall enjoy lifetime just due to the fact I am not around-nervous as to the future date of my departure.”

– Seneca, Letters From a Stoic, Letter sixty one


The ancient Romans also practiced the contemplation of dying, Memento Mori becoming a Latin phrase.


Memento Mori arrives from a Roman custom in which a normal would consider part in a triumphal procession through the city, on returning to Rome just after a major victory. To be the matter of such a march was a fantastic honor and the wish of a lot of bold troopers.


As the triumphant normal was carried through the city in his horse-drawn chariot to the fantastic applause and praise of the people today of Rome, a slave would stand powering him, keeping a crown around his head and whispering, “Respice write-up te. Hominem te memento. Memento mori!”


“Look powering you. Recall you are mortal. Recall you have to die!”


This custom was an chance for the normal to toss a grand celebration, and it authorized him some self-advertising, which could appear in helpful must he come to a decision to operate for political office environment someday. It truly is a bit rough working for office environment when nobody’s heard of you, just after all.


The intent of the slave whispering in his ear was to keep the general’s ego and standpoint in look at through the total celebration, lest he forgets himself and does one thing disgraceful and offensive to the gods.


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A couple of hundred a long time afterwards, all through the late Middle Ages, Memento Mori had formulated into an art design identified as Danse Macabre or the Dance of Death.


At this issue in historical past, Europe had just been devastated by the Black Death pandemic, with the most fatalities at any time recorded in human historical past dying was on everyone’s brain.


The Danse Macabre was a meditation on the universality of dying: no make a difference how loaded or how bad just one is, dying arrives for us all.


The art would ordinarily aspect a personification of dying (a skeleton or corpse) top people today from unique stations in lifetime – normally a pope, king, emperor, laborer, and kid – in a dance to their graves.


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In the 17th century, Dutch artists employed a design of still lifetime painting identified as vanitas art (from the initially chapter of Ecclesiastes, “All is vainness.”) as a Memento Mori. The artwork would aspect skulls, rotting fruit, candles, hourglasses, dead and wilted flowers, and extra atop tables as highly effective imagery to remind the viewer of dying.


By the nineteenth century, Memento Mori had moved from paintings to jewelry, with people today from all walks of lifetime carrying rings that includes skulls, coffins, the phrase “Memento Mori,” or a mixture of the 3 as a continuous reminder of the wearer’s mortality.


While not just about as prevalent in the minds of the normal populace as it once was, Memento Mori is owning a modern resurgence. People today are buying Memento Mori medallions to have with them in their pockets as a continuous reminder that they will just one working day die.


This kind of effectively-identified figures as Tim Ferriss, Casey Neistat, and extra have a Memento Mori medallion with them, and even Memento Mori rings are earning a comeback.


I am a part of this modern resurgence.


Memento Mori and The Twelve Labors Venture

Memento Mori is the resource that I use to overcome the worries in my lifetime and locate the inspiration to force through any impediment that I see in advance of me.


When I consider on actual physical worries as part of my Twelve Labors Venture, Memento Mori is what keeps me grounded, focused on the current, and aware of what definitely issues in a universe that appears to be unraveling.


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In 2016, for my fifth labor, I established out alone in the barren wilderness of the northern Mojave Desert to raise awareness of veteran suicide by pulling a two.5-ton pickup truck across Death Valley.


With a landscape as wonderful as it is bleak, my only companions through the 22-mile problem were being stones sculpted around the millennia by the desert wind and rain, dunes that reflected the sun’s blinding light, the searing warmth that burns anything that enters the Valley, and my thoughts.


Each individual mile that I pulled the truck through the desert represented just one of the 22 life that are shed every single working day to veteran suicide.


With each move I took and each inch of floor that I received, Death Valley would try a small harder to encourage me to consider off the chest harness and quit the problem it only at any time received hotter and drier as the journey progressed.


The natural way, the solitude that I experienced all through the problem compelled me to confront the worst of myself – my doubts, my fears, my insecurities, and everything I had at any time appear to regret in my lifetime.


I would consider a move and hear a voice, “Give up! There is no shame in quitting.”


I would consider one more move and notify myself, “Memento Mori! Recall, you have to die! Recall why you are in this article!”


Reflecting on my mortality and the memory of these who we’ve shed to suicide fortified my actions and built the seemingly impossible, possible.


The dichotomy involving dying and the current minute grew to become extra apparent than at any time, opening my see to perspectives and insights that under no circumstances in advance of transpired to me.


It was the catalyst I necessary to regain my momentum and embrace my destiny minute by minute with a complete coronary heart and unyielding solve.


Being alone in Death Valley with a two.5-ton pickup truck strapped to your back again is a surefire way to appear experience to experience with your mortality, and the practice of Memento Mori is what authorized me to keep focused on a aim that was larger than myself. I wasn’t striving for recognition when I hauled a truck across the desert.


I needed to raise the awareness of an alarming trouble which is plaguing veterans. Regardless of whether or not I finished the labor or another person else did was irrelevant, so extended as people today were being built informed of the bring about that spurred the problem.


I could have died at any issue all through my trek through the desert – I could die at any minute, seriously – the recognition, the accolades, it would all be meaningless to me just after that.


The bring about, however, would live-on.


“On fame. Glance at their minds, the character of their imagined and what they seek out or prevent. And see how, just as drifting sands regularly overlay the prior sand, so in our life what we once did is really promptly protected around by subsequent layers.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, seven.34


How Memento Mori can Spur motion

Memento Mori is not just a resource to motivate oneself to drag a truck through a hellish landscape – it can also act as a catalyst for enthusiasm and productivity each working day.


Procrastination is a problem that most people today experience every day, and I am no exception. Why trouble finding out of bed each early morning to experience an not comfortable globe when convenience can be found already under the blankets? Why trouble accomplishing anything at all?


What kind of lifetime would that be?


“So it is: we are not supplied a quick lifetime but we make it quick, and we are not sick-equipped but wasteful of it.”

– Seneca, On the Shortness of Everyday living


Seneca understood that we so normally waste lifetime clinging to idleness and comforts that only serve to distract us from fulfilling our best probable.


A lifetime lived in pursuit of convenience although putting off our obligation is a lifetime used throwing away the finite total of time we have. Discover convenience in the not comfortable, and recall you have to die: why waste your time on trivia when your time is quick?


If you want to satisfy specific physical fitness aims, Memento Mori is the motivator you need to have to get to the health and fitness center (or probably your house health and fitness center for now) and accomplish these aims.


When you wake up in the early morning, established an affirmation for oneself that you will do what you need to have to do to satisfy your aims, irrespective of the obstructions you may possibly experience.


Remind oneself of your mortality and that you would instead not invest the treasured time you have still left observing television or sleeping.


That’s what I notify myself every single working day in advance of I educate, and it really is what you can say to oneself, also.


If your aim is to have a much healthier diet plan, Memento Mori can support you to develop much healthier consuming and drinking patterns. Everyday living is quick – do you want your remaining moments used in a drunken haze? I doubt it.


Positive, we are all fated to die just one working day, but that does not necessarily mean that we must use each minute we have in hedonistic pursuits. The cake is excellent, but must we take in it for each food? Of program not.


Overindulgence in unhealthy consuming and drinking will only bring dying faster, although healthy patterns will serve to keep lifetime extended and support you get to your fullest probable.


A healthy body will make for a healthy brain, just after all.


Memento Mori and Environment Events

The globe is now enduring turbulence that hasn’t been felt in a extended time. Local weather adjust is producing extremes in climate problems that have led to powerful droughts, massive forest and bush fires, and hurricanes, the like of which humanity has not viewed due to the fact biblical moments.


We are in the middle of a international pandemic, with COVID-19 spreading through metropolitan areas reminiscent of the Black Plague of the medieval period. Governments are employing the panic and distraction induced by the pandemic to force agendas on the two finishes of the political spectrum.


American legislation enforcement is under magnified scrutiny owing to instances the place excessive utilizes of pressure and absence of human decency resulted in undue dying. These things are transpiring inside an environment of violent riots and tranquil protests in opposition to racial injustice and police brutality.


Some social issues are becoming conflated with broader kinds to embolden movements and attacks in opposition to certain teams. In distinction, other important issues are becoming drowned out by a deafening silence exclusively for their absence of utility or mere comfort inside the common narrative.


As an American with deep like and hope for this state, who also occurs to be a individual of color, allow us tread through these troubled waters alongside one another.


I believe that that the greatest adversary to justice and inequality for all people today are the unacknowledged unions involving indifference and management, ignorance and power, and apathy and panic.


In the phrases of the American novelist and activist, James Baldwin:


“Not everything that is confronted can be adjusted, but practically nothing can be adjusted till it is confronted.”


We have to have the bravery to combat and disintegrate these shadow alliances now and hereafter, extended just after the media moves on from it, and it is no lengthier trending.


As Og Mandino once wrote:


“Tomorrow is only found in the calendar of fools.”


Memento Mori, as a practice all through this complicated time in historical past, permits us to experience our fears, flaws, and failures separately and as a state. These events compel purposeful motion with a feeling of urgency, not from a location of despise or vengeance, but from a location of empathy and compassion under the premise that this working day, this hour, this minute is all we have.


Tomorrow is not a guarantee but a mere imagined—an assumption of an uncertain future time and location arising in the current.


These steps involve defending people’s suitable to criticize our country’s shortcomings and peacefully protest them although supporting the constitutional concepts on which America stands—all inside the same breath of enthusiasm and wholehearted conviction.


We are all dying from a serious problem named lifetime. In real truth, each second, we lose to laziness, procrastination, or indifference eternally belongs to dying.


Every single chance to do excellent in the globe, irrespective of a person’s race, politics, religion, or social class, gets a gift when we embrace the actuality that each human on earth will just one working day encounter the same reduction of loved kinds and suffering like you.


It will make feeling to be kind to each individual we encounter all through these complicated moments when we remind ourselves that dying is the remaining arbiter.


Out of the four Stoic virtues of knowledge, bravery, temperance, and justice, Marcus Aurelius felt that justice was the most important of them all.


“And a commitment to justice in your very own functions. Which signifies: imagined and motion resulting in the prevalent excellent. What you were being born to do.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, nine.31


When confronted with a kind of turmoil that we haven’t viewed for generations, Memento Mori can be the guide that allows us navigate through the current local weather.


Every single time you look at present events on the information or witness injustice occurring in front of you, you have a alternative involving motion or inaction.


Reflection on our mortality can enable us to see the larger photograph, experience injustice like a legitimate Stoic, and current remedies dependent on explanation and audio judgment.


We have to die, it really is legitimate, but have to we die owning performed practically nothing for the advantage of the higher excellent? No. Our life have this means when we live in accordance to our concepts and stand up for what is suitable and excellent in the globe.


Death arrives to anyone, which is for confident – there’s no issue in stressing about when or how it will appear when the most uncertain part of lifetime is how we select to live it.


Immediately after all, dying is only the end under the presumption that the story is exclusively about you. Our excellent deeds and strength of character are immortal, standing as living monuments in these we inspire—more highly effective than mere phrases on a tombstone can at any time be.


You can find a Greek proverb that I truly feel superbly exemplifies the issue I am attempting to make:


“A society grows fantastic when old adult men plant trees whose shade they know they shall under no circumstances sit in.”


Probably we are not all old however, but if we want our society to expand, then we have to plant the seeds of justice and like so that future generations can enjoy the shade of these trees.


Performing so is a alternative that we have to make, fully aware of the actuality that dying arrives to us all sooner or later, but the repercussions of our options live on in the globe and affect the generations that follow.


“You may possibly depart this lifetime at any minute have this possibility in your brain in all that you do or say or assume.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, two.eleven


Taking the assistance of Marcus Aurelius, we can allow the inevitability of our demise inform our way of lifetime. With each solitary alternative we make and each solitary motion we consider, we can see it in light of our dying in advance of we make that alternative or consider that motion. Ask oneself these thoughts:


“Do I want to be remembered as the individual who turned away from injustice?”

“Am I all right with becoming the bring about of inequality and suffering?”

“Do I definitely truly feel indifferent to the plight of the oppressed?”


When society lacks right management, you have to master to glimpse to your concepts to lead oneself.


Residing in accordance to your concepts may possibly bring about you to stand alone in opposition to a crowd it can lead to panic and doubt, and will just about definitely bring the stress down on you from unique associates of society – but you have to stand resolute.


If you are unable to stand company in your convictions although attempting to enhance society and crumple at the initially sign of pushback or be part of the crowd when it functions in opposition to your concepts, then you haven’t stood for anything at all. In chapter 24 of the Enchiridion, Epictetus has the next to say about benefitting communities:


“Well, what will my profession in the local community be?’ No matter what position you are equipped to fill, so extended as you preserve the man of belief and integrity. If you lose that in your zeal to be a public benefactor, what use in the end will you be to the local community once you have been rendered shameless and corrupt?”


To that end, we have to stand up to human indecency in the form of violence and rioting.


What would you hear if you went all around your local community and advised people today that you robbed their businesses for their advantage and wrecked their attributes to guard their rights? It truly is not likely that you would experience gratitude from victims of violence and theft, don’t you assume?


Memento Mori can be the catalyst for motion, but it can also be the catalyst for restraint. Use it to remind oneself of what variety of conduct you want people today to recall. Just as you can inquire oneself thoughts to support you consider motion, you can also inquire thoughts that advertise restraint:


“Do I want to be remembered as the individual who wrecked someone’s livelihood?”

“Am I inclined to sacrifice my convictions just to satisfy the mob’s lust for violence?”

“Will this support my circumstance or damage it?”


Memento Mori will be the guide that reminds you that there is always a larger photograph and that it is not always intelligent to act, just as it is not always intelligent to stay inactive. Epictetus in chapter 33 of the Enchiridion once again admonishes us to be company in our convictions:


“Settle on the variety of individual you want to be and adhere to it, no matter whether alone or in enterprise.”


When you have resolved who you want to be, Memento Mori will support you to adhere to it, reminding you when to act and when not to.


It will take bravery and sacrifice to do one thing for a bring about higher than oneself, but you is not going to lose oneself to the baser instincts of the ego so extended as you recall this:


“Look powering you. Recall you are mortal. Recall you have to die!”