Memento Mori

Remember that you will die.

Memento Mori is a medieval Latin Christian practice of reflection on mortality. To remember that you will die is not meant to be a depressing or morbid thought, but an uplifting and motivating one. As my boy Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself: “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think”. By doing this, we are not postponing anything and putting our lives into order now, before death catches up to us. The Stoics use Memento Mori as a way of life, they welcome each day as it comes and do not take any for granted. As one thing that everyone on earth has in common, is that we all die.

I like to also combine this with another Stoic exercise known as Premeditatio Malorum, which means ‘the premeditation of evils’. Many practice this by imagining all that could go wrong in either your day, week or even life. Think of all of life’s inevitable setbacks, anything that will cause pain or grief. By doing this, you are mentally preparing yourself for when it does happen, so that you can react logically and find a more well balanced solution, and avoid the impulsive actions caused by shock and vulnerability.

One of Seneca’s meditations sums this up perfectly:

What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events...”

Try and incorporate both Memento Mori and Premeditatio Malorum into your life and you will see how much more you can get done and how differently you will react when things don’t go in the direction that you would have liked.

Remember that you will die.

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Pat Barlow

Pat Barlow is a Sydney based Photographer and Content Creator who has a keen eye for Architecture and Design.