Let Memento Mori Inspire You

“Memento Mori” means to keep in mind that you will die.

2,000 years ago it was popular for Roman generals to keep this idea in mind. 

As generals paraded around their cities in horse led chariots after victorious battles, they kept aides behind them to whisper into their ears, “Memento Mori.”

Generals knew the fleetingness of life and wanted to keep the reminder close by so that their egos didn’t get the best of them. It’s easy for our ego to inflate and make us believe we are bigger than death, especially after achieving success. So it is a humble reminder to remember your death. To remember that you, and everyone around you, is going to die.

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A Memento Mori painting by Vincent Van Gogh

Many artists, philosophers, and rulers have used “Memento Mori” to inspire them.

Instead of letting the idea of death scare them, as many do, they used it to create urgency and a deeper perspective, seeing life as a gift and not as suffering.

You’ve probably heard of people who have experienced a near death experience and came out of it with a new inspiration for living fully. You don’t need a near death experience to change your life. “Memento Mori” can be your inspiration and guide to living a full life.

 

Here are some famous names of the past who were inspired by the reminder of death, Memento Mori:

“Of all the footprints, that of the elephant is supreme. Similarly, of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme.”
Buddha

“Every third thought shall be my grave.”
William Shakespeare

“Philosophy is “about nothing else but dying and being dead.”
Socrates

“To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”
Michel de Montaigne

“People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passes from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.”
Marcus Aurelius

“So this is how a thoughtful person should await death: not with indifference, not with impatience, not with disdain, but simply viewing it as one of the things that happens to us. Now you anticipate the child’s emergence from its mother’s womb; that’s how you should await the hour when your soul will emerge from its compartment.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?”
Marcus Aurelius

Find more Marcus Aurelius ideas on death & other subjects here

 

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Vanity Painting by Philippe de Champaigne

 

The reminder of death still inspires many modern day entrepreneurs, artists, and others:

“There’s something coming for all of us. It’s called death. Rather than fearing it, it can become one of our greatest counselors. So, if this was the last week of your life, what would you cherish most? How would you live? How would you love? What truth would you tell today?”
Tony Robbins

“It’s easy to lose track of that mortality, to forget time, to think that you’re going to live forever. The idea that you’re gonna die and that life is short is only depressing if you’re thinking about it wrong. If you’re thinking about it right it should give you a sense of priority. It should even give you a sense of meaning; it should let you know what’s important, what you’re trying to do while you’re here on this planet.”
Ryan Holiday

“The reason I believe in it(death as motivation) is because it’s ultimately practical. It’s the guiding light and the fire and ambition that drives me toward legacy and living my best life.”
Gary Vaynerchuk

 

Will you look death in the face?

Are you ready to let death inspire you?

Do it and see how your life changes for the better…

Memento Mori

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Let Memento Mori Inspire You

  1. So nice to find another Marcus Aurelius fan. Did you know that it was once common for brothers (and I’m afraid I don’t recall the order) to greet one another with the words Memento Mori? Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not know that, but I love that they did that. It is brilliant. It helps give each other objective perspective, a deep gratitude of life, and much more. Do you have a favorite Marcus Aurelius quote?

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      • There are many and thanks for the excuse to pull Meditations off the shelf and look for underlined passages.
        Here are two.
        If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm.

        Shame on the soul, to falter on the road of life while the body still perseveres.

        I’ve always like this last one. To me it means so many things: don’t give up; life needs to be lived till it can no longer be lived; and to not be engaged and present is shameful. However, you might find this interesting.
        Having spent much of the last decade caring for several people who died, I am now challenging the thinking behind this last quote. Making grief stories part of one’s life story requires a great deal of struggle especially in the early days. The soul yearns to live, but, faltering is a big part of grieving. Old scripts must be discarded, losing someone we love dearly changes us, and as we tune in to what the soul needs to move forward, it isn’t possible to not on occasion falter and wish for what once was. But, I believe that one must always be willing to continuously pick up and start again and to accept that faltering and setbacks are part of moving forward. I wonder how I might re-write that quote to incorporate my life experiences.
        Besides, it’s possible that Aurelius used another word all together. Sometimes translators interpret words differently. Regardless, the sentiment is still right on: keep going till you can’t anymore. Thanks for asking that oh so simple question. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome 🙂 & these are really good quotes! The world would be a better place if all people were able to willingly have someone tell them they’re wrong, and actually listen.
        I like the second one too – we all fail from time to time but to persevere through it all.
        You have some good ideas, I checked out your blog as well. If you’d like to write a guest post on stoicism or a relative subject I would love to publish you on my site.

        Like

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