Memento Mori is a Latin phrase that can be translated as “remember that you will die” or “remember your mortality.” It is a powerful concept that has been embraced by various philosophical traditions, including Stoicism.
The Stoics believed that contemplating our own mortality can help us live better lives. By recognizing that death is inevitable and that our time on earth is limited, we can gain a clearer perspective on what truly matters in life. We can focus on what is important and let go of things that are not. We can also learn to appreciate each moment and live in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
I never worried about death until I had a stroke. Now this stroke was a small vessel stroke, and I recovered 99%. I consider myself the luckiest man in Tampa. It could have been 100X worse.
But it was a come to Jesus moment. At age 69, I suddenly felt vulnerable to life. I had given all of my money to my daughter and lived on a small (not max) Social Security check. I even qualified for a little extra money under Supplemental Security Income.
The only way I could live like this was by couch surfing in my daughter’s apartment. I had given my car away, so I take the city bus or walk. My social life was a few friends at Panera Bread, and taking advantage of their subscription for unlimited coffee. I could write, read, and use their wifi for my computer.
One of the key Stoic practices related to Memento Mori is negative visualization. This involves imagining the worst-case scenario in various situations, such as losing a loved one, losing our job, or facing a serious illness.
A health crisis is one good way to imagine a worst-case scenario. If you have one stroke, a second one is more likely, and the second one could kill or disable me.
By doing this, we can prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for these potential challenges. We can also learn to appreciate what we have in the present moment and not take things for granted.
Another Stoic practice related to Memento Mori is living in accordance with nature. The Stoics believed that everything in the universe is interconnected and that we should strive to live in harmony with nature. This includes accepting our mortality as a natural part of life and embracing the impermanence of all things. By doing so, we can learn to let go of attachments to material possessions, status, or other external factors that do not bring lasting happiness.
My first change was to start looking for a job. I wanted to work remotely, but no one wants to send equipment to a 69-year-old. A temp agency hooked me up with a call center, but the commute was long by bus. I moved to a new location and rented a room 1.5 miles away and have walked to work since then. This takes care of basic exercise, but I struggle to add strength training to the mix.
Memento Mori can also be a source of motivation and inspiration. When we remember that our time on earth is limited, we can feel a sense of urgency to make the most of our lives. We can strive to live with purpose and meaning, to make a positive impact on the world, and to leave a legacy that will outlast us.
It took quite some time to come up with a vision of what I want to do. I have 2 major goals:
- Become a master of AI companion robots for the elderly.
- Build a healthy 70-year-old man and maintain it.
Both goals will need a set of systems to make it easier to reach.
We can also learn to face our fears and take risks, knowing that time is precious and that we should not waste it on things that do not matter.
I hesitate to take on big goals for fear of making a mistake. What I have to understand is that I will get older, and eventually die, whether I am working toward a vision or not. What I do understand is that few people leave a lasting legacy, so I don’t concentrate on something I don’t control.
In modern times, the concept of Memento Mori has been embraced by many individuals, from entrepreneurs and artists to athletes and everyday people. It has inspired works of art, such as paintings and sculptures, that depict the inevitability of death. It has also been used as a reminder to live with intention and to appreciate each moment, as seen in the popular phrase “carpe diem” or “seize the day.”
However, the concept of Memento Mori is not without its criticisms. Some argue that focusing too much on death can lead to nihilism or a sense of hopelessness. Others argue that it can be a form of escapism, allowing us to avoid confronting real problems in our lives.
Ultimately, the value of Memento Mori depends on how it is practiced and interpreted. For those who embrace it as a way to live more fully and appreciate each moment, it can be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-improvement. For those who view it as a negative or depressing concept, it may not hold much meaning.
In conclusion, the Stoic concept of Memento Mori is a powerful reminder of our mortality and the impermanence of all things. By contemplating our own death, we can gain a clearer perspective on what truly matters in life and learn to live with intention and purpose. Whether we embrace it or reject it, Memento Mori remains a timeless concept that has the power to inspire and challenge us.