So: you’re going to die. Probably not today, obviously – all the stuff about the Mayan apocalypse is based on an enormous misunderstanding about their calendar system, though there’s always a chance that you’ll get hit by a bus or drop dead from a heart irregularity you weren’t previously aware of. And you can manage the chances of those things, to some extent. But you’re going
to die, one day. Definitely.
People have been remembering that they’re going to die for years. Supposedly the latin translation of this post title, memento mori, was originally carried by a servant in an ancient Roman victory parade, to remind the successful general of his mortality. Plenty of Christian and Buddhist art is designed to remind you of your death, which seems a bit weird if you think you’re going to live in the clouds, playing charades with Albert Einstein and all your mates, but actually makes sense if you realise/accept that you are probably not. Meta-learning chef/kickboxer/marketer Tim Ferris puts a tiny skull on his book jacket photos, and strength/body-composition expert Nate Green recommends downloading a little chart where you can fill in the weeks you’ve (hopefully) got left to live. Personally, I like listening to the Flaming Lips’ Do You Realise? You might prefer the opening scene of Up. In the excellent book A White Merc With Fins, one character suggests that shopkeepers, cinema attendants and hairdressers should end transactions with a cheery ‘Remember, you’re going to die!’ It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
So remember: you are definitely going to die. I’m not going to tell you what that means you should do – maybe you should hug somebody you like, or tell somebody how you feel about them, or act in a way that acknowledges your time is limited. Maybe you should arrange to do something this year, this week, tonight, that you’ll remember forever and look back on when the T-1000s are closing in or the cancer metastasises or the plane is plummeting into the sea, or whatever. Maybe you should just remember that it’s a privilege to be here at all. But do think about it. Because it’s never far away. Maybe you should act accordingly.
HOMEWORK: Remember, you’re going to die.