Memento Mori

Thinking of your own mortality each day is a reminder to make the most of the time you have left.

“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.” — Seneca

“Remember you must die.”

At first, this phrase seems dark and morbid. Why would one obsess over death? There is too much living to do!

Living is actually the point of memento mori. Marcus Aurelius wrote in his private journal: “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

Considering your own mortality brings clarity. It sharpens the focus on what is important. You want to be better. You NEED to be better. Life must not end with regrets.

Memento mori doesn’t just apply to you. It applies to everyone around you. It is a reminder to make the most of the time you have with loved ones. I know this all too well at the age of fifty. I lost my father and other close relatives suddenly, without warning.

Romans are famous for focusing on their own mortality, but this practice is actually common throughout the ages in other cultures.

According to Plato, Socrates said in his final hours that “those who truly grasp philosophy pursue the study of nothing else but dying and being dead.”

Buddhists meditate on death with the practice of maraṇasati, which translates to “death awareness.”

In Islam, Tadhkirat al-Mawt or “remembrance of death” is an important element of spirituality. Among the hadith traditions, Muhammad advises believers to “remember often death, the destroyer of pleasures.”

From the samurai Hagakure, “The Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one’s mind firmly in death.”

Memento mori: “Remember you must die.” Let this phrase become mantra to live your best life and to cherish every moment with the ones you love.