Memento Mori

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day…The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” – Seneca

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” – Marcus Aurelius

One of the epiphanies associated with adopting the secular worldview is the realization that this is the only life we have.  There is not a single shred of evidence that there is anything waiting for us on the other side of death.  Oftentimes the contemplation of this fact prevents some from adopting a secular viewpoint in spite of being convinced by the arguments and evidence.  I’m sure you’ve heard the objection, “I can’t believe we live and die and then that is it.”  This fact is so unpalatable for some that it elicits an emotional response that overrides the conclusions of reason.

For me, this realization was a very visceral epiphany.  The understanding that this is our one and only life, rather than being a strictly intellectual acquisition, resonated deep inside me and caused me to reevaluate just about every aspect of my life both in the present and what I had planned moving forward in the future. Prior to this, I felt like I had all the time in the world and if I didn’t get to it in this life well, there was always eternity (of the Catholic variety) waiting and there would certainly be time o’plenty to get to it, whatever it happened to be. All that changed with the realization that once you got that tap on the shoulder letting you know it was time to leave the party, that was that.  The party wasn’t over, it would continue on but you had to leave never, ever to return.

What goes through your mind, dear reader, when you contemplate this fact?  Is it something you push to the side, glancing at it occasionally with averted vision or is it something you embrace each day?  Some might say that to constantly focus on one’s death is a morbid view and an unhealthy thing.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

The Stoics, Greek and Roman philosophers, understood the importance of meditating daily on the idea of Memento Mori, roughly translated “One day you too will die.” They exhorted those practicing the Stoic disciplines to keep this fact in mind each and every day. In addition to being a philosophical framework, Stoicism is also a mental discipline and, like any discipline is something that is to be practiced.  Was your experience of the realization of your eventual death something that motivated you and caused you to appreciate even more this one and only life we all have?  Then the Stoic practice of being constantly cognizant of this fact each and every day will continue that even more so.  More importantly, it will motivate you to change your behavior. Speaking from personal experience the awareness of my own unavoidable death is the driving force that provides meaning to what I choose to invest my time and energy in.  I don’t have an unlimited amount of time and each and every day I am taking more and more from less and less.  Every second is precious to me and I am careful about how I spend my time and the activities I invest that precious time in.  Far from draining the value of our life as the religious would have you believe, it adds meaning to it which is the very thing the religious claim is lacking in the secular worldview.  There are other philosophies that also take somewhat the same view towards death as the Stoics but I have found that the Stoics have a special appeal to people who hold to a secular worldview.  There is other wisdom to be mined from the Stoics but nothing as transformative as Memento Mori.  If you are looking for a framework upon which to hang your secular worldview give the Stoics a good look.  Practice the different disciplines starting with Memento Mori and see how transformative it can be.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

 

5 thoughts on “Memento Mori

  1. Thought you might enjoy this. The magical thinking of guys who love logic

    | | | | | |

    |

    | | | | The magical thinking of guys who love logic

    Why so many men online love to use “logic” to win an argument, and then disappear before they can find out they’… |

    |

    |

    I subscribed to the website this article is on, not that I’ll get a chance to read everything soon but, if the writing is as good as it is in this article, there should be some good reads from time to time. I’m still sick. It’s like I’ve plateaued at a certain level of recovery that’s lasted about a week now. This is getting really old. I rarely get physically ill (90% of my time off from work at the VA has been for PTSD/depression/anxiety stuff) but, when I do, every three or four years, it’s a whopper.  The effing property manager here where I rent my condo called my van in as abandoned. After I bought it last year, he wouldn’t let me park it in the huge, 1/3 empty complex parking lot because it’s a “commercial vehicle”, so I parked it on the street before I took it to a garage last fall to have the stuff done to it that never got done. When the garage closed down in January, I brought it back here and parked it on the street again. I would go out regularly, start it and clean the snow off of it while I tried to find someone to build it out. After ending up in two ERs in five days in mid-Feb and then catching something unrelated to either ER visit at the second ER, I didn’t go out to check the van for a couple of weeks. Last Friday, something told me to check it. It had an abandoned vehicle warning on it, written on 2/25, even though the registration is current and it’s parked directly in front of the address where it’s registered. It said it could be towed if it wasn’t moved by 2/28. There was a citation on it, written by the same officer, an hour after the 72 hours expired. The battery was dead so I called road service and made the asshole property manager let me move it into the parking lot until I get better and can take care of it. He wanted me to back it into a particular parking spot (on ice and snow, in the dark, with no side or rear windows in the box – so no view to the rear at all – so I made him do it after I got it jumped.  After he backed it in and got out, he hardly had the door closed before he started ranting about how the van is a nuisance and a danger and an eyesore, and how tons of people from all over the world have been complaining about it for “months”. He’s such an effing liar. No one gives a damn about it but him and the only reason he gives a damn is because he’s a vengeful, spiteful, hateful, bitter man who creates trouble for whomever he can, whenever and wherever he can. He tried to forbid me to park it on the public street after I get it taken care of and told me I had to put it in paid storage somewhere. He had backed the van up to the fence behind it, so I trapped him between the van and the car next to it and told him that I’ve been working 60-70 hours a week for the VA since way before I got the van, that everything over 40 hours is unpaid (not at all germane to the subject of the van, but I wanted him, a vet, to know that I, a vet, am working for the VA, for vets, for free, while he, a vet, is persecuting me, a vet; I didn’t tell him I’d already quit the VA), that I’ve been sick, that I had been in two ERs in the past two weeks, that I have plans for the van, that I’m not paying to have it stored, that he can’t forbid me to park it on the public street and that I just needed some human kindness!! He couldn’t look me in the eye for even one full second while I spoke. He tried to tell me that I had to get it out on Monday and I said I didn’t know if I’d be well enough and forced him to back off on that. He started telling me how hard he works too and I cut him off. He started pointing out the huge favor he’s doing me by letting me put the van in the parking lot (when he’s the effing asshole who called it in in the first place) and I cut him short. F*ck him! As soon as I get well, I’m getting the battery taken care of and parking it right in front of the building again. I just have to move it a minimum of 100 feet every 72 hours (which I didn’t know about). On Thursday, 2/21, while I was out sick, I found out that my supervisor had done an incredibly irresponsible, immoral and unethical thing regarding an emergency contract I had been working on before I ended up in the first ER on the night of Friday, 2/15. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I decided to put in for retirement the moment I returned to work. On Friday, 2/22, he started harassing me by text about putting my sick leave into the system, while I was still out sick. I advised him to read the AFGE Master Agreement and informed him that he could not demand that I do anything work-related while I’m on my own time, unless it was a national emergency, and that timekeepers could enter people’s time by proxy, and asked to know why he was demanding that I do this when it was only the middle of the pay period. He responded with some pompous crap, telling me that it sounded like I was telling people how to do their jobs and that I shouldn’t tell people how to do their jobs. (He is not very intelligent and, when he gets on his high horse, he sounds ridiculous.)  I called the acting director about an hour later and found out that, not only had my supervisor lied to him about what I’d said about putting my time in, he had not told him the truth about the emergency contract. Even though my supervisor and the acting director are both in management, and management always protects management, the acting director and I have known each other for seven years – since way before I ever met my supervisor – and we know each other very, very well. He knows that I am not a liar and that I actually have a functioning moral compass. I told the acting director what actually had not happened and was still not happening with the emergency contract; read him my text about putting my time in, so he would know what I’d really said to my supervisor about my time; and told him I was retiring as soon as I returned to work. Later that night, I changed my mind about retiring and decided to quit.  I planned to go in on Saturday to clean my desk out but was still too sick when I woke up. I went in on Sunday and, with the help of my angel friend, Olga, and her husband, cleared my cubicle out. I taped the doctor’s note that my supervisor had demanded that I bring in when I returned to work to his office door, put a plastic butterfly with one of it’s gauze wings torn off on the team bitch’s desk, right in front of her keyboard, and we left. (Yes, I have evil in me, too.  She’s the supervisor’s sycophant and work wife. They complete each other. She has treated me like dreck since she saw him doing it, shortly after I returned to work from my 3-month TDY to the new VA hospital here in 2017. [If he was doing it then it must be okay, right?]) I quit work, by text to my supervisor, at 4:20 AM on Monday, 2/25. And I told him all about himself. I can forward you the text if you want to see it. I hate having unscrupulous people in my life who have power over me.

    I think of you and your telescope(s) (did you keep the old one?) when I see the beautiful, clear skies at night.  S. 

    The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. – Gandhi

    You must remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being. – Prophet Mohammed

    Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. – Arthur Schopenhauer

    Like

  2. Agreed and not agreed. Due to an experience I had in @ 1990, I believe that reincarnation is as far from being an impossibility as it is from being an inevitability. Neither the prospect of the unavoidable dissipation of my current energy form, nor the understanding that I may or may not return to earth again in any form, occupy my mind in any bothersome or pleasing way. These also don’t inform my every waking decision, even as the time of the dissipation of this life form grows closer and closer. If, in fact, I will never be reincarnated as a human being or anything else on this earth, I know that my energy will still never cease to exist, it will just be transformed. And what am I but my energy? (The unlikely possibility of ceasing to exist in any energy form doesn’t bother me either.) If we can accept that it is unimportant that we are here in this energy form and that, whether we are or are not reincarnated, is also unimportant, we can then experience this time on earth in any manner we currently have the power and inclination to create for ourselves. Trying to imbue our lives here with importance is a way of torturing ourselves. If we can let go of any perception of importance that we attach to our energy, in any form it takes, we are free.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s