Memento Mori: A Simple Practice for a Complex Time

Allan I. Fleming

There is nothing at all a lot more sure in lifestyle than the certainty of dying. It is really the terrific equalizer of the entire world, and it is blind – no make any difference if a particular person is prosperous or weak, nutritious or unhealthy, very good or lousy, clever or ignorant, any sentient getting that experiences lifestyle must also expertise dying. It behooves any person who needs to improve themself to be conscious of dying and one’s mortality.


Memento Mori: A Simple Practice for a Complex Time - Fitness, fitness, meditation, motivation, focus, ego, mind-body connection, self confidence, inspiration, procrastination, mindfullness, goal planning, Life Challenges, fitness motivation, stoicism



Does That Look Somber?

It would not have to be if you have the appropriate mentality. You can pick to stay in relative comfort, stay clear of most hazards of harm, presume the story is unheroically about you, and arrive on death’s shore somewhat protected and intact, unmarred by the labor of terrific pursuits in assistance to a trigger greater than your existence.


At the similar time, you are experiencing the stress of regret for in no way being aware of the true extent of your capabilities.


On the other hand, you can pick to go away powering a legacy described by a lifestyle lived with deep objective, this means, ethical character, convictions, compassion, and courage, strong sufficient to encourage folks prolonged just after your flesh and bones return to dust and particulate silence.


Innumerable folks through human historical past have reflected on dying as a way to expertise lifestyle and stay it to their fullest opportunity. The observe has had a lot of names in a lot of languages in excess of the millennia, but these times it is really most generally referred to as Memento Mori.


A Brief Heritage of Memento Mori

Memento Mori translates to, “Remember, you must die.” The observe has a pretty prolonged historical past that crosses cultures, continents, religions, and philosophies: from the historic philosophers of Greece to Roman generals, Buddhist monks to Islamic Sufis – meditation on dying authorized them all to go after lifestyle.


In Plato’s Phaedo, the terrific thinker Socrates states ahead of he is about to die:


 “…he who has lived as a true thinker has cause to be of very good cheer when he is about to die, and that just after dying he may well hope to obtain the finest very good in the other entire world…For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is probably to be misunderstood by other adult males they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing dying and dying…”


The example that Socrates established all through his lifestyle and ahead of his execution would go away a lasting legacy on the entirety of Western civilization and direct to the start of a lot of different universities of philosophy.


One school in unique – Stoicism – starting to be very well-acknowledged as a useful school of philosophy that stressed the worth of thinking about dying. The surviving writings of the historic Stoics are crammed with admonitions to try to remember dying and the 3 most very well-acknowledged Stoics:



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


All have a thing to say about dying.


“All that you see will quickly perish all those who witness this perishing will quickly perish them selves. Die in extraordinary outdated age or die ahead of your time – it will all be the similar.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, nine.33


“Keep the prospect of dying, exile and all such clear tragedies ahead of you every single working day – particularly dying – and you will in no way have an abject thought, or desire something to excess.”

– Epictetus, Enchiridion, 21


I am endeavoring to stay every single working day as if it had been a entire lifestyle. I do not without a doubt snatch it up as if it had been my very last I do regard it, having said that, as if it may even be my very last. The existing letter is penned to you with this in intellect as if dying had been about to phone me absent in the pretty act of creating. I am prepared to depart, and I shall get pleasure from lifestyle just since I am not in excess of-anxious as to the upcoming day of my departure.”

– Seneca, Letters From a Stoic, Letter 61


The historic Romans also practiced the contemplation of dying, Memento Mori getting a Latin phrase.


Memento Mori comes from a Roman custom in which a basic would consider part in a triumphal procession by means of the town, upon returning to Rome just after a significant victory. To be the issue of such a march was a terrific honor and the desire of a lot of formidable soldiers.


As the triumphant basic was carried by means of the town in his horse-drawn chariot to the terrific applause and praise of the folks of Rome, a slave would stand powering him, holding a crown in excess of his head and whispering, “Respice article te. Hominem te memento. Memento mori!”


“Look powering you. Remember you are mortal. Remember you must die!”


This custom was an option for the basic to toss a grand celebration, and it authorized him some self-marketing, which could occur in helpful need to he choose to run for political office sometime. It is really a bit tricky functioning for office when nobody’s heard of you, just after all.


The objective of the slave whispering in his ear was to keep the general’s ego and viewpoint in check out through the entire celebration, lest he forgets himself and does a thing disgraceful and offensive to the gods.


Memento Mori: A Simple Practice for a Complex Time - Fitness, fitness, meditation, motivation, focus, ego, mind-body connection, self confidence, inspiration, procrastination, mindfullness, goal planning, Life Challenges, fitness motivation, stoicism


A couple of hundred yrs later on, all through the late Center Ages, Memento Mori had formulated into an artwork design and style acknowledged as Danse Macabre or the Dance of Loss of life.


At this issue in historical past, Europe had just been devastated by the Black Loss of life pandemic, with the most fatalities ever recorded in human historical past dying was on everyone’s intellect.


The Danse Macabre was a meditation on the universality of dying: no make any difference how prosperous or how weak 1 is, dying comes for us all.


The artwork would ordinarily aspect a personification of dying (a skeleton or corpse) foremost folks from different stations in lifestyle – ordinarily a pope, king, emperor, laborer, and baby – in a dance to their graves.


Memento Mori: A Simple Practice for a Complex Time - Fitness, fitness, meditation, motivation, focus, ego, mind-body connection, self confidence, inspiration, procrastination, mindfullness, goal planning, Life Challenges, fitness motivation, stoicism


In the seventeenth century, Dutch artists employed a design and style of nonetheless lifestyle painting acknowledged as vanitas artwork (from the 1st chapter of Ecclesiastes, “All is self-importance.”) as a Memento Mori. The artwork would aspect skulls, rotting fruit, candles, hourglasses, useless and wilted bouquets, and a lot more atop tables as strong imagery to remind the viewer of dying.


By the 19th century, Memento Mori had moved from paintings to jewellery, with folks from all walks of lifestyle donning rings showcasing skulls, coffins, the phrase “Memento Mori,” or a combination of the 3 as a continuous reminder of the wearer’s mortality.


Although not practically as common in the minds of the basic populace as it at the time was, Memento Mori is getting a modern-day resurgence. People are purchasing Memento Mori medallions to have with them in their pockets as a continuous reminder that they will 1 working day die.


These very well-acknowledged figures as Tim Ferriss, Casey Neistat, and a lot more have a Memento Mori medallion with them, and even Memento Mori rings are earning a comeback.


I’m a part of this modern-day resurgence.


Memento Mori and The Twelve Labors Venture

Memento Mori is the tool that I use to triumph over the worries in my lifestyle and find the inspiration to press by means of any impediment that I see ahead of me.


When I consider on bodily worries as part of my Twelve Labors Venture, Memento Mori is what retains me grounded, centered on the existing, and conscious of what truly matters in a universe that appears to be to be unraveling.


Memento Mori: A Simple Practice for a Complex Time - Fitness, fitness, meditation, motivation, focus, ego, mind-body connection, self confidence, inspiration, procrastination, mindfullness, goal planning, Life Challenges, fitness motivation, stoicism


In 2016, for my fifth labor, I established out by itself in the barren wilderness of the northern Mojave Desert to increase recognition of veteran suicide by pulling a two.5-ton pickup truck throughout Loss of life Valley.


With a landscape as lovely as it is bleak, my only companions through the 22-mile obstacle had been stones sculpted in excess of the millennia by the desert wind and rain, dunes that reflected the sun’s blinding light-weight, the searing warmth that burns something that enters the Valley, and my feelings.


Each and every mile that I pulled the truck by means of the desert represented 1 of the 22 life that are misplaced just about every working day to veteran suicide.


With every single action I took and every single inch of floor that I obtained, Loss of life Valley would try out a minor more challenging to influence me to consider off the upper body harness and stop the obstacle it only ever bought hotter and drier as the journey progressed.


Normally, the solitude that I seasoned all through the obstacle pressured me to confront the worst of myself – my uncertainties, my fears, my insecurities, and every little thing I had ever occur to regret in my lifestyle.


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


I would consider an additional action and inform myself, “Memento Mori! Remember, you must die! Remember why you are right here!”


Reflecting on my mortality and the memory of all those who we have misplaced to suicide fortified my measures and made the seemingly not possible, probable.


The dichotomy involving dying and the existing moment grew to become a lot more clear than ever, opening my see to views and insights that in no way ahead of happened to me.


It was the catalyst I needed to get back my momentum and embrace my destiny moment by moment with a total coronary heart and unyielding take care of.


Currently being by itself in Loss of life Valley with a two.5-ton pickup truck strapped to your back again is a surefire way to occur confront to confront with your mortality, and the observe of Memento Mori is what authorized me to stay centered on a aim that was greater than myself. I wasn’t striving for recognition when I hauled a truck throughout the desert.


I wanted to increase the recognition of an alarming challenge that’s plaguing veterans. Irrespective of whether or not I accomplished the labor or a person else did was irrelevant, so prolonged as folks had been made conscious of the trigger that spurred the obstacle.


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


The trigger, having said that, would stay-on.


“On fame. Glance at their minds, the character of their thought and what they find or stay clear of. And see how, just as drifting sands constantly overlay the former sand, so in our life what we at the time did is pretty immediately included in excess of by subsequent layers.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, seven.34


How Memento Mori can Spur motion

Memento Mori is not just a tool to motivate by yourself to drag a truck by means of a hellish landscape – it can also act as a catalyst for motivation and productivity every single working day.


Procrastination is a obstacle that most folks confront day-to-day, and I’m no exception. Why bother getting out of mattress every single early morning to confront an unpleasant entire world when comfort can be discovered now underneath the blankets? Why bother doing something at all?


What form of lifestyle would that be?


“So it is: we are not given a shorter lifestyle but we make it shorter, and we are not unwell-provided but wasteful of it.”

– Seneca, On the Shortness of Lifetime


Seneca knew that we so generally waste lifestyle clinging to idleness and comforts that only serve to distract us from fulfilling our maximum opportunity.


A lifestyle lived in pursuit of comfort even though putting off our responsibility is a lifestyle used throwing away the finite sum of time we have. Come across comfort in the unpleasant, and try to remember you must die: why waste your time on trivialities when your time is shorter?


If you want to fulfill unique health ambitions, Memento Mori is the motivator you have to have to get to the fitness center (or possibly your home fitness center for now) and accomplish all those ambitions.


When you wake up in the early morning, established an affirmation for by yourself that you will do what you have to have to do to fulfill your ambitions, irrespective of the hurdles you may well confront.


Remind by yourself of your mortality and that you would fairly not invest the treasured time you have still left watching television or sleeping.


That’s what I inform myself just about every working day ahead of I educate, and it is really what you can say to by yourself, way too.


If your aim is to have a much healthier diet plan, Memento Mori can enable you to develop much healthier having and consuming behaviors. Lifetime is shorter – do you want your closing times used in a drunken haze? I doubt it.


Guaranteed, we are all fated to die 1 working day, but that would not necessarily mean that we need to use every single moment we have in hedonistic pursuits. The cake is very good, but need to we try to eat it for every single food? Of class not.


Overindulgence in unhealthy having and consuming will only convey dying quicker, even though nutritious behaviors will serve to keep lifestyle prolonged and enable you access your fullest opportunity.


A nutritious human body helps make for a nutritious intellect, just after all.


Memento Mori and Earth Gatherings

The entire world is at this time experiencing turbulence that hasn’t been felt in a prolonged time. Weather alter is leading to extremes in temperature problems that have led to intense droughts, significant forest and bush fires, and hurricanes, the like of which humanity has not observed since biblical occasions.


We are in the center of a world wide pandemic, with COVID-19 spreading by means of metropolitan areas reminiscent of the Black Plague of the medieval time period. Governments are making use of the worry and distraction triggered by the pandemic to press agendas on both equally finishes of the political spectrum.


American regulation enforcement is underneath magnified scrutiny thanks to instances the place abnormal utilizes of drive and deficiency of human decency resulted in undue dying. These issues are occurring inside of an ambiance of violent riots and tranquil protests versus racial injustice and law enforcement brutality.


Some social troubles are getting conflated with broader kinds to embolden actions and assaults versus sure groups. In contrast, other significant troubles are getting drowned out by a deafening silence only for their deficiency of utility or mere ease inside of the popular narrative.


As an American with deep appreciate and hope for this state, who also transpires to be a particular person of color, permit us tread by means of these troubled waters collectively.


I believe that that the finest adversary to justice and inequality for all folks are the unacknowledged unions involving indifference and leadership, ignorance and electrical power, and apathy and worry.


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


“Not every little thing that is confronted can be adjusted, but nothing at all can be adjusted until eventually it is confronted.”


We must have the courage to fight and disintegrate these shadow alliances currently and hereafter, prolonged just after the media moves on from it, and it is no more time trending.


As Og Mandino at the time wrote:


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


Memento Mori, as a observe all through this challenging time in historical past, makes it possible for us to confront our fears, flaws, and failures individually and as a state. These situations compel purposeful motion with a perception of urgency, not from a spot of hate or vengeance, but from a spot of empathy and compassion underneath the premise that this working day, this hour, this moment is all we have.


Tomorrow is not a promise but a mere thought—an assumption of an uncertain upcoming time and spot arising in the existing.


These steps consist of defending people’s appropriate to criticize our country’s shortcomings and peacefully protest them even though supporting the constitutional principles upon which The united states stands—all inside of the similar breath of passion and wholehearted conviction.


We are all dying from a long-term ailment identified as lifestyle. In reality, every single 2nd, we get rid of to laziness, procrastination, or indifference without end belongs to dying.


Each individual option to do very good in the entire world, irrespective of a person’s race, politics, religion, or social class, results in being a gift when we embrace the truth that every single human on earth will 1 working day expertise the similar loss of liked kinds and suffering like you.


It helps make perception to be form to every single particular person we face all through these elaborate occasions when we remind ourselves that dying is the closing arbiter.


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


“And a determination to justice in your possess functions. Which suggests: thought and motion resulting in the frequent very good. What you had been born to do.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, nine.31


When confronted with a form of turmoil that we have not observed for generations, Memento Mori can be the manual that aids us navigate by means of the existing local weather.


Each individual time you observe present situations on the information or witness injustice going on in entrance of you, you have a decision involving motion or inaction.


Reflection on our mortality can allow us to see the greater picture, confront injustice like a true Stoic, and existing answers centered on cause and seem judgment.


We must die, it is really true, but must we die getting carried out nothing at all for the benefit of the greater very good? No. Our life have this means when we stay according to our principles and stand up for what is appropriate and very good in the entire world.


Loss of life comes to everybody, that’s for guaranteed – you can find no issue in stressing about when or how it will occur when the most uncertain part of lifestyle is how we pick to stay it.


After all, dying is only the close underneath the presumption that the story is only about you. Our very good deeds and strength of character are immortal, standing as living monuments in all those we inspire—more strong than mere text on a tombstone can ever be.


You will find a Greek proverb that I sense beautifully exemplifies the issue I am attempting to make:


“A culture grows terrific when outdated adult males plant trees whose shade they know they shall in no way sit in.”


It’s possible we’re not all outdated however, but if we want our culture to improve, then we must plant the seeds of justice and appreciate so that upcoming generations can get pleasure from the shade of these trees.


Doing so is a decision that we must make, totally conscious of the truth that dying comes to us all inevitably, but the implications of our selections stay on in the entire world and affect the generations that abide by.


“You may well go away this lifestyle at any moment have this chance in your intellect in all that you do or say or consider.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, two.11


Taking the suggestions of Marcus Aurelius, we can permit the inevitability of our demise tell our way of lifestyle. With every single one decision we make and every single one motion we consider, we can see it in light-weight of our dying ahead of we make that decision or consider that motion. Question by yourself these issues:


“Do I want to be remembered as the particular person who turned absent from injustice?”

“Am I ok with getting the trigger of inequality and suffering?”

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


When culture lacks good leadership, you must master to glimpse to your principles to direct by yourself.


Residing according to your principles may well trigger you to stand by itself versus a crowd it can direct to worry and doubt, and will almost absolutely convey the strain down on you from individual customers of culture – but you must stand resolute.


If you can not stand business in your convictions even though attempting to improve culture and crumple at the 1st sign of pushback or be part of the crowd when it functions versus your principles, then you have not stood for something at all. In chapter 24 of the Enchiridion, Epictetus has the next to say about benefitting communities:


“Perfectly, what will my job in the local community be?’ What ever position you are equipped to fill, so prolonged as you preserve the person of believe in and integrity. If you get rid of that in your zeal to be a community benefactor, what use in the close will you be to the local community at the time you have been rendered shameless and corrupt?”


To that close, we must stand up to human indecency in the variety of violence and rioting.


What would you hear if you went all over your local community and told folks that you robbed their enterprises for their benefit and ruined their houses to shield their legal rights? It is really unlikely that you would confront gratitude from victims of violence and theft, never you consider?


Memento Mori can be the catalyst for motion, but it can also be the catalyst for restraint. Use it to remind by yourself of what sort of actions you want folks to try to remember. Just as you can ask by yourself issues to enable you consider motion, you can also ask issues that promote restraint:


“Do I want to be remembered as the particular person who ruined someone’s livelihood?”

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

“Will this enable my situation or damage it?”


Memento Mori will be the manual that reminds you that there is generally a greater picture and that it is not generally clever to act, just as it is not generally clever to remain inactive. Epictetus in chapter 33 of the Enchiridion at the time once more admonishes us to be business in our convictions:


“Settle on the sort of particular person you want to be and adhere to it, no matter if by itself or in organization.”


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


It usually takes courage and sacrifice to do a thing for a trigger greater than by yourself, but you won’t get rid of by yourself to the baser instincts of the ego so prolonged as you try to remember this:


“Look powering you. Remember you are mortal. Remember you must die!”

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