Memento Mori

{the phraseology quadrilogy — Vol. I: Memento Mori}

~ You could leave life right now. ~

This is the truth of life, and of the sentiment of memento mori. ~ “Remember, you will die.

What is the value in meditating upon death? Specifically, what possible reason might there be to ruminate upon your own death?

Naturally, there are actionable implications in the reflection of one’s mortality. It is self-evident: If we could go at any moment, changing over from life to death, being to non-being — here to not here —then our behavior should change in the now.

We certainly take life for granted. We get distracted by sensation and anticipation and general, groundless and pointless rumination. One simply grows used to life. We take in the constancy of living without serious moment-to-moment consideration of … the end. Cognitive dissonance allows for this. It is a blessing, of course. One cursed to live with the endless reminder of one’s inevitable demise would drive one towards madness and/or death itself.

And yet, the assumption of continued life merely provides a baseline. In the abstract, 75 years is a good long while. Without digging too deep and thinking critically about it, this feels like more than enough time to do everything we want to do. However, we know that time becomes more and more pressing the older we get. We can feel how much less of it we have. With age comes noticeably declining faculties, and mathematically less significant years as we build upon a growing past of experience.

More importantly, the belief that life will go on relatively indefinitely in this way doesn’t really spur one to do anything. Mere life does not guarantee productivity, or progress, or anything extraordinary. Existence is just existence. Its continuance does no work to make one happy, or fulfilled. One’s existence seems to offer no ‘inherent’ meaning.

But perhaps, in meditating on life in the context of its opposite, in the consideration of death, and the sentiment of memento mori, new thinking may be produced. With memento mori in hand, one may think a little more clearly, and productively, concerning their time here. Life becomes less mundane when you think about how it’s nearly impossible we are here right now, and how much had to happen for … *all this* to be:

  1. {Big Bang}
  2. Incredibly improbable elemental formulation of organisms, life, consciousness
  3. You are borne from the random chance of a million million repeated die rolls until you are somehow walking around the Earth and reading this.

Here, at this level of cosmic, chaotic chancy reflection upon our own nigh unfathomable existence, gratitude is much more easily cultivated. With life, in its wider arc of a definitive yet unknowable beginning, middle, and end, one becomes more self-aware. Such an eventuality as our life’s course coming to its natural end, at any point along this arc, comes as a refreshing realization to move when one might otherwise stay in place.

One need not run from death, or from truth. Life without death, may very well be meaningless. The providence of our existence is defined mostly by the coming prospect of our non-existence. The extraordinary is spawned from within risk-taking; and risk is always tinged with the aura of Thanatos’ smoky presence…

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

Hypothesis: Death, maybe more than anything else, does indeed spur one on to do things. The struggle to survive against the endless march of potential death-dealers sharpens one’s spirit.

In this way, memento mori becomes a call to action: To take more risks, not less.

By way of taking risk, we are trying to deal with the onset of darkness inherent to our time here. It serves to imbue one with a personalized purpose.

By returning to memento mori, like the breath in a purposeful meditation spanning our years, we may build the necessary guile to contend with the world efficaciously.

An embrace of memento mori means wasting no more time with anything that does not invigorate your spirit. In consideration of death, you leave only room for the truest experience of life.

As in meditation, there is a process here. Mindfulness involves focusing upon the familiar locus of the breath, or the moment to moment experience of one’s consciousness, as a masterstroke to deter one’s ceaselessly churning monkey mind. This process serves to temper one’s attention to the world, crafting a more refined way of going through our conscious experience, in every moment.

In this same mode, memento mori can work one’s consciousness towards the purpose of patiently gathering one’s finite attention towards passion. With the right mindset, the right balancing of the practice, we service a continuous spurring towards our passions {i.e. the clock is always ticking! Get moving!}

Thinking on your own death constantly serves much less of a purpose {it’s also practically impossible.} Cognitive dissonance typically doesn’t suffer thanatophobia and its expectant immobilization. But meditating on your death, at certain defined intervals, applied to life’s day-to-day as an occasional spice within the pot — this can serve a grand purpose: One may learn that death-meditation leads on ambition and continuous working towards dreams in the now, and the actualization of the extraordinary pursuits you set yourself upon.

As in the mindfulness credo: When you are lost in thought, return to the breath.

So we have Thanatos’ credo: When you are lost in life, in the rut of existential doubt, moving through the world without conviction, without passion — then return to this:

You could leave this life at any moment.

In this, one creates the mantra of memento mori:

Like the breath, return to Death. ~

“It is not death that a man should fear; he should fear never beginning to live.”

~ Marcus Aurelius