Memento Mori means “remember death.”
I was introduced to this idea in the song of the same name by the metal band Lamb of God. Their lead singer D. Randall Blythe is a practicing Stoic.
“The hardest hour, the cruelest sign
I’m waking up from this wretched lie
I fight it the same, don’t waste this day
Wake up, wake up, wake up
There’s too many choices
And I hear their relentless voices
But you’ve gotta run them out
Return to now and shut it down
Shut it down” – Momento Mori, Lamb of God
I heard this song in Spring of 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning. Schools were closing, and no one was sure what was going on or what would would happen next.
The lyrics I copied above resonated with me. I wasn’t sure what was going on, and social media and the talking heads on cable news weren’t helping.
I needed to shut them down. The relentless voices.
I Googled Momento Mori and one of the top results is Ryan Holiday. Ryan is an author and modern Stoic.
Ryan writes extensively on Stoicism in books and his Daily Stoic newsletter, website, and podcast. From his work I was introduced to Marcus Aurelius.
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor from 161-180 AD and the true philosopher-king Plato had hoped for.
Marcus Aurelius journaled his thoughts in what would become Meditations, a widely read book by accident, because it was never meant for anyone but him.
These were his own private thoughts about how he could become a better man and therefore a better leader.
This idea of Momento Mori can be found throughout Mediations.
“Let each thing you would do, say, or intend, be like that of a dying person.” —Marcus Aurelius
Momento Mori is not about dying. It’s about living.
It’s about shutting out the relentless voices and being true to yourself. It’s about realizing today is a gift, and tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow how would you live today?
Guess what…you never know when that tomorrow is coming so make today count.
Like Tim McGraw said, “Live like you were dying,” because we all are every day. Some just have more time than others.