The one perennial truth – rich or not, successful or not, religious, philosophical, it doesn’t matter – you will die. From the beginning of time to the end, death is the one universal inescapable commonality. Kings or peasants, brilliant or stupid, everyone dies or is dead. Some try not to think about it. But for others, the certainty of death is kept at the forefront of thought. Why? So that they might really live.“Memento Mori,” or translated in English, “Remember you must die.” The point of this reminder isn’t to be morbid or promote fear, but to inspire, motivate and clarify. The idea has been central to art, philosophy, literature, architecture, and more throughout history. As Socrates says in Plato’s Phaedo, “The one aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death.” Seneca urged in his Moral Letters to Lucilius, “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself: “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” The emperor considered it imperative to keep death at the forefront of his thoughts. In doing so, the world’s most powerful man managed the obligations of his position guided by living virtuously NOW. Epictetus would ask his students, “Do you then ponder how the supreme of human evils, the surest mark of the base and cowardly, is not death, but the fear of death?” And begged them to “discipline yourself against such fear, direct all your thinking, exercises, and reading this way — and you will know the only path to human freedom.”
The Stoics used Memento Mori to invigorate life, and to create priority and meaning. They treated each day as a gift, and reminded themselves constantly to not waste any time in the day on the trivial and vain….The Late Middle Ages was a period of devastation. A catastrophic plague, the Black Death, devastated Europe, killing an estimated 25 million people – one-third of the population. Out of the grim horrors and fight for survival grew an art genre called Danse Macabre, meaning Dance or Death. Like plague, Danse Macabre illustrates the all-conquering power of death. Paintings include kings with peasants, young with old, to convey that death comes for everyone. While Memento Mori has fallen from consciousness compared to its historical relevance, mortality motivation is practiced modernly in fueling successful entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, authors, among others.
~Evelyn De Morgan
consider a blessing for the day….
inquiry for today~ may we all know why we live into this day….
Laughing made us invincible.
Not like those who always win,
but like those who do not give up.