Momento Mori - "remember that you can die"
I try to remind myself everyday that happiness is the way, I’m intolerant to dairy despite how appetising almond croissants look, and that I could die at anytime.
Plato talked of philosophy as being the “meditation of death”. Recently many examples of death have appeared in my stream of life. A conversation on this topic on the Tim Ferriss podcast with the philosopher Alain De Botton, a FB post of Steve Job’s last words on his death bed which was poetic but forged and fooled me, a dinner with a wonderful real friend who’s father had passed away, Wim Hof's story and method that i'm training in, and this week the attacks in Paris, all of which I found profoundly sad but also uplifting.
I regard myself as an Artist, which I believe is our default setting. One who’s playing a tug of war with the pull of everyday life to hold on to his precious brushes. What keeps my grip from slipping, the pigment that is the richness of life from fading, and me from getting too concerned about using lame metaphors is the thought of death. The knowledge that death could takeaway everything I love in an instant. Momento Mori, Latin for "remember that you can die", in art, is the artistic or symbolic reminders of mortality that shows up in paintings as a skull, skeletons and other symbols of death.
This might all seem quite depressing. However its effect on me, and its intention is of intoxicating liberation. It’s the daily dose of stoicism I need to seize the day (stoicism is not grim resolve but a way to wrest happiness from adversity).
It has given many great minds like Plato and Marcus Aurelius great strength, and I the same. The strength to cold shower every morning, to have a prostate examination, to ask a girl out in public at the local bagel shop, to admit to myself and my family, up to this point, I’ve been irresponsible with money (I say to this point as the opportunity to be reborn is with us in every moment), to sign up for a 200km bike race with my longest training ride of 10km, to leave lifelong friends behind who don’t make me feel on top of the world, to tell people they look amazing today even though I don’t know them (can be hit and miss/#creepy but worth the risk), to write and share this post, and to strive to live in an evermore uncomfortable place as that is where growth happens.
“The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself...That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.” ― Neil Gaiman
The fact that like death my time may come before I ever find someone I truly love and that loves me back, that I will most likely see my parents, my dog, my friends and family die before me, that I could hit my last car anytime on a bike, that my existence and everything around me is as fragile and fleeting as the dark chocolate in my fridge. It makes me shed a tear unconsciously and my body tingle head to toe with the kind of unwavering vibration of pure energy and life. A sensation only glimpsed in the final scene of Gladiator/Lost in Translation and more recently Whiplash, when you’re favourite “Bieber “sorry”/better example jam comes on and you’re just about to throw down an epic workout, when you’re flying down a track in the forest floating from one foot to the other with effortless ease, when you take three attempts for a cliff jump then finally take the leap, when you finally learn to say something in a foreign language or nail a song for the first time on guitar, when you stop thinking about telling someone you love and just do.
I find these moments of pure joy happen more and more late at night or in the early hours of the morning before and after the chaos of the world tries to distract you from the truth.
I believe Wim Hof said it best, “I don’t fear death; I fear not living life fully.” Today I will toast a glass of Organic Mechanic Kombucha to that and do something that scares me. Because organic is best, happiness and health are one and the same and come primarily from the gut, I know I know very little, but what I feel intuitively is as true as it gets, and I sense a great primitive vitality at the edge of death.
The knowledge that I have two choices when I come up against my Momento Mori, to smile ear and follow my heart down the road less ridden/run/read/explored/learned/eaten/loved, and share with the world my experience. Or to follow routine, create nothing, and die a slow comfortable death.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Buddha
Think less, experience more,