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THE WHAT AND WHY OF MEMENTO MORI
I don’t know about you, but I often catch myself getting completely wrapped up in between what happened YESTERDAY or, even more so, what my plans are for TOMORROW. It takes an enormous amount of awareness and thought on my part to focus on RIGHT NOW. The speed at which my mind races from one thought or memory or feeling to another is lightening speed at times. In reality, though, NOW is the only certainty we possess. After all, yesterday has already passed (and will never come again) and tomorrow is not guaranteed (by any means).
Ancient Roman tradition brings this thinking of THE NOW to light better than any other analogy I’ve found to date. The methodology can be categorized as STOICISM, a philosophy of personal ethics informed by logic and views of the natural world. It is a specific category of this methodology that peaks my interest and it’s called MEMENTO MORI.
In the time of great Roman Emperors, there was a tradition that called into place a slave who sat at the ear of the military generals after triumph. It was said that this slave would whisper into the victor’s ear, “Look behind, remember thou art mortal, remember you must die.” Whether or not the tale is apocryphal, the message and meaning is timeless. We don’t know how long we have to live on this planet. That being said, if today is our last, how will we spend it...what will we say...what will we do….how will we think?
As Marcus Aurelius said it best…”you could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
I feel myself always searching for that grounding, that stability, as the world moves around me. MEMENTO MORI provides me with a harness on the present, the HERE and NOW. I can say that when I’m able to fully give myself over to the moment (and the moment only), I feel free. That liberating potential, so to speak, is one of the best feelings out there! Honestly, Marcus Aurelius was spot-on in his Stoic thinking.
If you left your life now, would YOU continue to act, think, and do what you’re doing now? After all, we are only one breath away from our last...make them count.