If there’s one thing that Stoicism can help us with, it’s seeing the world differently, and in doing so, it helps us find solutions where some see problems, find calm where others find only chaos, and learn acceptance where many suffer through resistance.

Memento Mori:

One of the Stoic practices that can help us live a better life is the Stoic principle of Memento Mori. In Latin, Memento Mori translates to ‘remember that you will die’.

A common reaction to those who first come across this principle is to resist it; after all, death is a horrible thing, is it not? Why would you want to spend so much time reminding yourself that you and everyone around you will one day die?

These are valid questions, and it’s not until we understand the value of Memento Mori that we can fully embrace it as a life skill.

Stoicism, Death and Control:

The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, left us with the Dichotomy of Control: Some things are within our power and some things are not. A life in which one spends their energy trying to change the uncontrollable is bound to be one of frustration. A life in which one focuses only on what is within their control is one of effectiveness and progress.

Death is one of life’s events that we have no control over. While we may be able to delay it through good health and the avoidance of danger, it will ultimately find us whether we are ready for it or not.

Therefore to the Stoics, death is not something to fear, avoid, lament or hate. It is something to be accepted. It is part of the natural order of life, and a part that we must all face at some point.

So what can we control?

When we are unable to control the things around us, we must focus on controlling how we respond to them. To the Stoics death is inevitable, it is outside our control. However, our view of death is our responsibility, and we can learn to accept it as neither good nor bad, it just is. It is part of nature.

Memento Mori and Gratitude:

So, we can learn to accept death. However, we can go one step further and use death to improve life.

The concept of Memento Mori is so powerful because we can use it to add vibrancy to our life. When we remind ourselves that one day we will die, we are better able to appreciate the time we have, and from this frame of mind it is easy to stop wasting time over trivial things, petty arguments, and complaint.

In the knowledge that we are temporary we can find gratitude for the little time we have. How many times will you enjoy the heat of the summer? The company of friends? The laughter during a movie? The celebration with family?

Through the lens of mortality everything becomes more precious. Time itself falls away from us like sand in an hourglass, and memento mori helps us appreciate each gran, rather than getting to the end of our lives and realising it has all past us by.

Memento Mori

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