“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” – Marcus Aurelius
I recently ordered the Daily Stoic’s Momento Mori Medallion as a way to remind me of my mortality. We hear of people’s death daily on social media, in the news, within our family, we lose friends, colleagues and we know deep down that it is an inevitable thing that would happen to us all. Death is a debt we all have to pay, and it is a subject our society encourages us to avoid. We act awkward around people that just lost a loved one; some people even avoid reaching out to their family and friends because they do not know what to say. The sad reality is that when you DIE, the world would move on, you and I are not that special.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs
The problem is you think you have time. -Buddha
Meditating about our eventual mortality is a great stoicism tool that seeks to ground us into prioritizing what is really important. Since I started using the Momento Mori Coin, I have been paying more attention to what I feel really matters. At the end of the day, we are all going to DIE, but the challenge we all have is that we think we have time. The coin has the following inscriptions:
- Momento Mori – is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death.
- “You could leave life right now.” at the back.
Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius writes in his book Meditations, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” The French painter Philippe de Champaigne echoed a similar thought in his painting “Still Life with a Skull,” which showed the three essentials of existence: the tulip (life), the skull (death), and the hourglass (time). The original painting is part of a genre referred to as Vanitas, a form of 17th-century artwork featuring symbols of mortality that encourage reflection on the meaning and fleetingness of life.
The front features an interpretation of de Champaigne’s 17th century painting and the back shows a shortened version of Aurelius’s timeless wisdom. The coin acts as a reminder to not obsess over trivialities, or trying to become famous, make more money than we could ever spend, or make plans far off in the future. All these are negated by death. It’s time we stop pretending otherwise.
Each coin is shipped in a custom-designed box with an accompanying information card, explaining the practice to anyone receiving the coin.
I have gotten used to carrying the coin around all day; although the practice is a little bit dark and scary, we need to remind ourselves of the eventuality of death constantly. As English theologian John Henry Newman once quipped, “Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have a beginning.” If we asked ourselves, what if today was my last day? We would re-order our priorities continuously because everything begins to have a renewed sense of urgency in the face of death.
Live as if you’ll die today. -James Dean
Constantly reminding yourself of your eventual demise is a tool I find to be very helpful. I highly recommend the Daily Stoic’s Momento Mori Coin. You could order the Medallion at: https://store.dailystoic.com/
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.