Memento Mori

Seneca advised keeping death before our eyes basically because the certainty of death gives us perspective.  In particular, keeping the reality of death in mind causes us to value the people in our lives, and doing so consequently waylays regrets after their death. It also reminds us to make the most of every day, countering the notion that life is short.  Further, remembering the value of any living day helps to silence complaining and procrastinating because death always looms a possible occurrence at any time. Another related way of describing the value of death is the phrase that I came across in the book Genius by Harold Bloom: “Death makes life beautiful.”  Those views of death are helpful in how to live more than in how to cope with the death of another, which is the realm of death where I find myself wandering and wondering. There, poetry emerges from the shadows as a guide, since there is no more poetic topic than death. I wanted an arresting and memorable articulation of the idea that death is natural and that immortality is not a thing anyone would wish for—an idea of true consolation. I found the following lines from Swinburne that serve that purpose perfectly.

From too much love of living,

From fear and hope set free,

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever gods may be

That no life lives forever;

That dead men rise up never;

That even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

One thought on “Memento Mori

  1. Hi Laura,
    I just have to drop you a line to tell you how much I enjoy your writings and your great taste in all things. If I recall, you found something of mine many years ago and commented on it– I believe it was a lovely photo from the ’40’s that I posted of a dog gazing off into the sky. In any case, I found in turn your site here & writings, with your angle on stoic philosophy. I never forgot my digital encounter with your philosophy, even tho I myself knew little to nothing of stocism. Fast-forward to now, and here I sit reading Epictetus for the first time, my heart thrilling in my chest, my brain longing to lock up every word for safe keeping. I just wanted to say Thank You for planting the stoic seed, though you didn’t know it, many moons ago. I remembered two things enough to look you up here, your first name & stoicism. I don’t know if you still maintain your page of if you will even receive this little note. If you do get this, please accept my thanks for your works & my wishes to you for happiness and True prosperity.
    Your fan,

    P.S. the Bronte sisters’ poetry Rules !!

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