Mortality makes living life more meaningful
BY ROBERT CELLUCCI ON NOVEMBER 15, 2013
The Phrase “Memento Mori” loosely translates to “Remember you will die.” If that thought depresses you, don’t worry, it only shows that you’re still alive. Memento Mori is normally represented by a visual symbol, a skull and crossbones, a young woman, or some reminder of the inevitability of death. While in high school, we aren’t often included in the joke of our mortality. The students certainly don’t look like they're going to die soon. Even the teachers that are particularly elderly seem to be carted away from the school for retirement before we can see that they’re done for. It can be all too easy to forget what gives life its special meaning: the fact that it will end.
For those of you, myself included, who are the “I’ll do it tomorrows,” the self doubters: We put important things off.
“Someday I’ll learn that.”
“Someday maybe i’ll ask that girl out.”
“I’ll tell him I like him next week.”
“If I can just get past this next class, I’ll learn it later.”
“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.”
You have a deadline, not one that ensures that you’ll get into the paper, but one that ensures everything that encompasses you will cease to exist. And for those of you like me that need to be reminded: that deadline could be tomorrow. It could be 50 years from now.
It could be as I am writing, this very minute, and for somebody, somewhere, it is.
“If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come.” Shakespeare reminds us that all that is important is that we are ready.
The famous Greek philosopher Epicurus had a lot to say on death and is one of the few who faced his own physically painful end with cheer..“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”
So Should we laugh in the face of death or weep at our final puny significance? For what terrifies us is the fact we may no longer exist.
Fortunately, we are spared the hell that would be eternal life. Every evil action, every good deed, every hour, minute and day would lose all of their worth. The reason life matters is because it is short. As Mr. Saxey would say: The finitude of this life, in a sea of infinity, diminishes its significance to an eternally shrinking point. But it also saves us from the meaninglessness that would hold if our lives went on forever. And in this brief hour upon the stage, we can make – cannot escape making – meaning for ourselves.”
How then should we respond? To act in some misconstrued carpe diem as in modern (Yolo), do as many dangerous and stupid things that we want? Languish in our coming oblivion? Chase for wealth and status that may last little? Or maybe to look for a better understanding of our world? For clarity? Or love? For these I can offer you only to try and make a better world, which is the only reason i can offer you seriously that we should live at all. Life is but the time between our two deaths, and make no mistake the second is coming. As Penn Jillette would put it, Do you fear the 1800’s? No? than why the 2100’s?
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” And yet, it is this very frame of fleeting life and uncertainty that makes the picture beautiful. So, memento mori.