Memento Mori. Remember you will die.
I will admit I don’t like the English version of the saying. The Latin one slides over its grim meaning in a pleasing almost-rhyme that I can’t literally translate. The fuzziness of it all works better for me. But it is a philosophy that informs my decisions.
Memento mori is a Latin phrase that shares an idea with a famous Marcus Aurelius quote:
“In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” This Stoic reflection on the impermanence of life is known as Memento Mori, which is Latin for “remember you will die.””
Memento mori tells us to prioritize and to be a somewhat selfish in just two words, which is one of the things I love about Latin. So much meaning in a small package.
We are reminded that our time here is limited and that there is a big picture for our existence. It seems to tell us to stop spending time on things that don’t matter to us and to build upon things that will transcend us: relationships, helping others, activism.
The Enemy of Memento Mori
Contrasting memento mori is propaganda. Propaganda is when our time on Earth is siphoned away while we forget it is also limited. Our attention is pulled towards half-truths or even lies to inspire us to waste ourselves on someone else’s fight. A fight we wouldn’t even have cared about if we were told the truth.
You could almost say the two are opposites. If, with every choice, we remained aware of our life’s purpose, would we really be worried about fashion?
Our life has a budget of time. How do I spend my life? How will you spend yours? You don’t look outward for that. You look inward.
Being half alive perhaps is scary. Historically we see mass oppresion and genocide. Less familiar perhaps is current genocide - this is not what I want to speak to. Being sick with an abusive partner is not rare. Cannot walk trapped in room with partner living two lives: His and yours. Gossip cruelty terror and isolation. No hope no escape.