It’s latin for “Remember that you will die.”
“Physicality of death destroys us. The Idea of death saves us” -Irvin Yalom
All things are transient.
Earthly life is full of vanities.
This too shall pass.
Memento Mori is a simple and yet timeless and powerful concept. It is simply a mental exercise of reminding oneself of their mortality. This form of broadening is reminiscent of our pages on the Power of Perspective, Solomon’s Ring, Mood: Death More Intimate, and Mood: To This Day! and it has its own specific flavor and history.
Plato himself said that philosophy is “about nothing else but dying and being dead.” That is, to think broadly – philosophically or with great intention – is to think relative-to and in-consideration-of one’s own mortality. “What does this mean, knowing that I will soon die?” or “How do I feel about ___, remembering that I soon will perish?”
The Stoics were particularly fond of Memento Mori. Epictetus reminded his students to remember the mortality of their friends, family, and children when embracing them.
During Roman triumph parades, Generals were praised above all mortals for their victories, yet sometimes had slaves intermittently remind them, ‘memento mori’, of their own mortality to keep their over-confidence in check.
Since Ancient Greece and Rome, Memento Mori has carried itself through diverse religious practices, literary and artistic themes, and cultures throughout the world. The reason is clear: its utility is of significant effect upon the human condition.
Scale Your Life. It’s good for you.
Any decision, feeling, sensation, or experience can benefit from a broader perspective. When we consider something, considering it within a wider context offers clarity and insight.
Remembering that we will die some day can help us find gratitude for things we might otherwise take for granted. It can but fear more at ease, and a comfortable relationship with one’s own impending end can lead to greater joy.
Sure, it can be unsettling sometimes. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE. It is a stark an irreconcilable statement which our brains and our cultures create massive myths in order to find comfort in denial.
And yet, consider how it can empower and inspire you. Memento Mori is a mindfulness tool intended to help us achieve clarity outside of momentary tunnel vision.
Articles and Links on Momento Mori
‘Death Simulator’ Attraction in China
Opened in Shanghai in 2014, ‘Samadhi – Experience of Death’ is an escape room game bringing people close to the experience of dying.
The Odds of Dying
A fun article showing infographics and stats on how we are most likely to die, objectively.
Mentioned frequently on our Death page, Ostaseski is an expert on loss and grieving.
More detail on the history and practice of Momento Mori throughout cultures/time.
A fun historical look at Momento Mori from The Daily Stoic.
A fascinating article challenging modern time’s reception of death against our anscestors.
Looking at the topic through the lens of art history.
A friend of this website writes about his brush with the death and the two ‘bonus’ years he has since had to live.
A website solely devoted to telling you approximately when you will die, according to statistical average.
Audio: Making Peace with Death
One of the best doctors in the nation talks about the importance of how we view death.
Artistic and inspiring video about the practice and the Stoics. 4.5min
This chilling video is simply a montage of Victorian and Modern art of Momento Mori. 11 min
Memento Mori told as a Christian religious practice. 4 min
A Therapist in the Ukraine buries his patients alive for 20 minutes, using Death as a means of finding new vigor for life. 3.5 min
The famous first few minutes of Pixar’s ‘Up’ brings us to a swift awareness of death and life as inseparable. 4.5 min
‘Three Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed” – a talk about insights on life and death from experiencing a drawn-out certainty of death. 5 min
‘Am I Dying? The Honest Answer’ – a TED talk from Matthew O’Reilly, a veteran emergency medical technician. 5.5 min
It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking. – Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life