Memento Mori a Latin phrase meaning “Remember Death” has been – since the mediaeval times – an anchor used philosophers and ascetics alike as a constant reminder of death and decay aiding them to shift their focus away from desires for sense gratification and towards what’s philosophically or spiritually profound. This reminder is often conveyed through the use of skulls, flowers, candles etc. each signifying impermanence and the persistence of time.
At the first glance this concept feels grim and dull, impractical for a family man or any person with deep and sincere love for life and benefit of the society. Despite its ability to make us feel more grounded, humble, moral, content and altruistic one might still feel that such a way of thinking would turn the society towards a lack of drive, passivity and inertia.
And it’s highly likely that to an undeveloped mind constant reminder of mortality would induce fear, a sense of unfairness, limitation, despair and disappointment but one could introduce a subtle change and turn Memento mori to actually mean something along the lines of another popular Latin phrase called Carpe Diem meaning “Seize the day”. How many times have you procrastinated or not grabbed an opportunity or not made the best of the time available with a loved one and regretted it later?
I have a weird sense of appreciation and love for life and I see memento mori in a broader and deeper sense. To me memento mori means not to cling to anything because the process of nature is as such that things are constantly evolving and transforming and even if you cling there’s nothing to worry about because when you can’t give up on something the process will achieve that for you, it will dissolve it away. It will take away the people, situations and things you no longer need.
Then you can truly appreciate everything and everyone in your life for you know that nothing would last forever not even YOU. And this is the true freedom because everything belongs to the one who seeks not to possess. Then you can truly enjoy and then you truly live. Hence Memento Mori is subtly transformed to yet another but not so popular Latin phrase Memento Vivere meaning “Remember to live”.
Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
It also teaches us to not rush toward the end because what happens in the end? What happens after a flower blooms? The petals fall! So before the petals fall enjoy the flower stem, the bud, the blooming, all the scents, colours, the humming of the bees. And don’t worry about petals falling either because after the petals fall and soil covers it and some day there’s a new stem and new bud and a new flower. This is the dance of life and death, inhale and exhale, systolic and diastolic. Two sides of a coin. The grand and eternal game. This I think is the true idea behind Memento Mori.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below? If you found this post helpful or entertaining do share it with your loved ones. Memento Mori 😆