“I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life.” - Marcus Aurelius.
‘Memento Mori’ is Latin for 'remember that you will die'. It is a reminder of the inevitability of death and for exactly that reason; it’s a celebration of life.
It’s not a negative bummer. It’s a positive call to action. A rock’n’roll dream. A righteous reminder of who we really are. ‘Memento Mori’ screams:
‘Be Here Now!’
It demands that we ‘find something to die for!’. It’s a whisper in the ear from the Grim Reaper constantly at our side saying:
“Don’t be afraid of death. Be afraid of never having lived”.
And this idea is far from new. It’s not local. It’s not bound by faith or race or gender or sexuality or disability. Everyone is equal in death. Wherever you go geographically and historically, the song remains the same: ‘Memento Mori’ is an ancient and ubiquitous refrain.
The Stoics constantly reminded themselves of their mortality. Victorious Roman generals would have someone standing behind them, holding a crown over their head whispering:
"Respice post te. Hominem te memento"
(remember you’re going to die and remember you're only a man.)
The "remembrance of death" (Tadhkirat al-Mawt) is a major topic of Islamic spirituality.
In the Christian danse macabre, a dancing Grim Reaper carries off rich and poor alike.
The Mexican’s have their "Day of the Dead".
The Buddhist practice Maraṇasati meditates on death, the word itself combining maraṇa 'death' and sati 'awareness'.
In Tibetan Buddhism, Lojong says all things are impermanent, death of the body is certain and only the time of death is beyond our control.
Shantideva, in the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra reflects that:
‘My enemies will not remain, nor will my friends remain. I shall not remain. Nothing will remain’.
‘You’ll Never Get Outta This World Alive’.