What is the Point? 2 of 4: Memento Mori

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

#Purpose #Happiness #Mindset

“Life is fragile, be kind to yourself and tolerant with others.” Gareth Robinson

This is the second of four articles dedicated to one of my best mates Rich. If you've read the first article on the power of narrative and storytelling, feel free to skip this intro (that's for you TJ 😊).

If you haven’t read the first article, then start here.

People have been asking themselves what the point of life is since the beginning of time, and because I recently lost Rich to suicide, I have been re-examining that question to process his death and find some clarity for myself.

The four articles are:

1. The Power of Narrative and Storytelling

2. Memento mori

3. Developing Your Happiness with Gratitude and Fun

4. Why being insignificant is a good thing (unpublished)

Right now, today, I am not sure there is a point. Or, if there is a point, I am not sure it matters.

What does matter to me, and the purpose of writing this series of articles, is that I share what Rich has taught me from his final lesson, a lesson from an irrational act that was out of character. An act which has brought into sharp focus what is important in life, the best way to live it, and what the actual point is.

The point of life is to make a positive difference — just like Rich did — in people’s lives.

There is no other point, it is as simple as that.

I believe the meaning of life, the point of it all, is to improve yourself and your community, to make a positive difference in the world — no matter how small — because every little bit counts.

I challenge you to find a more worthy point of your existence.

If you want to build an empire, leave a legacy, save the world, then that’s OK too. But be sure the road you're on is making you and your loved ones happy.

Just make sure that your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to leave a legacy is not so big, that it’s stopping you from starting. Or worse yet, stopping you from enjoying today. Remember that focusing on the process, and taking small steps, will deliver you big results over time, and as Michelangelo once said:

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

So, take the first step to live your best life by doing. Speaking of doing, it is a fundamental part of living a ‘Stoic life’, which brings me to the topic of this second article; ‘memento mori’ the Stoic practice of living each day as if it is your last.

Before I continue, please remember that if you are struggling to talk to someone (it’s good to talk), you have people who care for you and love you - reach out to one of them. And if you need to, contact a healthcare professional in your local community.

“Don’t lose hope because when the sun goes down, the stars come out.” Unknown

IMPORTANT: The information in this article is not a substitute for medical advice, nor is the content intended to be used for diagnosis and treatment. You, or anyone you are concerned about, are encouraged to seek professional advice and treatment from doctors and/or qualified healthcare professionals in specific cases of need. If you, or the person you are concerned about, appear at risk of self-harm or harm to others, please seek immediate professional assistance.

PART TWO: Memento mori “Remember that you have to die.”

When used properly the practice of remembering your mortality is not morbid, it’s the exact opposite.

Memento mori is a powerful tool that pulls you into the present moment, reminding you to be grateful of the small things in life. And when you are feeling stressed and time-poor it can give you that kick up the arse you need to refocus on what is important in your life.

To state the bleeding obvious, living each day as if it’s your last does not mean you quit your job, fly to Ibiza, and blow your lifelong savings on a week-long party. Sure, that sounds like fun, however, post-party all you'll have is a hangover to end all hangovers, no job, and no money.

In this article I’m going to unpack two of my favourite memento mori quotes from Marcus Aurelius* to see what other options, other than the week-long party in Ibiza, worth considering.

The two quotes I'll be discussing are:

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.

“Live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.”

*Known as the last of the Good Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius reigned from 161 to 180. In between his daily duties as the most powerful man in the world, managing a war or two, dealing with the Antonine Plague that killed over 5 million people, and everything else a Roman Emperor has on his Task List, he wrote what is arguably the most popular piece of Stoic literature ‘Meditations’. According to Britannica: The Meditations are “his reflections in the middle of campaigning and administration. …It shows the strong influence of Stoicism on Marcus and has been held by generations as the thoughts of a Philosopher-King.” If you’re interested in Meditations you can check it out here

The first quote:

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.

Let's unpack that with an exercise: I want you to spend some time imagining that you only have six months left to live.

Outside of ticking off as many items on your personal bucket list as possible, take some of that precious time you have left to think about how you would behave in those last six months, consider the three words below:

  • Do

  • Say

  • Think

Over the next six months what are you going to do, say and think, so you will be remembered well by those you love?

As you think about this, it might help to write down your thoughts... Grab a bit of paper, journal or notebook and jot down what thoughts come to mind about how you want to do, say, and think over the next six months.

Going about your normal day, in those everyday moments, how are you going to act so that you will be remembered in the way that you want to be remembered?

Think about your loved ones, how will you behave with them? What will you say? What will you do so that they remember you well?