At first glance this can sound like a depressing and morbid statement. It is an ancient Stoic philosophy to keep your perspective and stay in the present. One practice of this was that even as a Roman General marched into Rome with great praise and fan fair there was a slave who walked behind him reminding him that even he must die one day. Memento Mori. Keeping him humble and grounded even with all the praise and accolades.
I ran across Memento Mori and several other Stoic philosophies a few years ago and they struck a chord. I ran across “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. There are several Stoic philosophies that are excellent life skills but were great practices for athletes and that is what initially caught my eye. Amor Fati (Love Fate), Control what you can control and Memento Mori (Remember you must die). Love Fate, is the concept of not only accepting your situation (playing the hand you are dealt) but embracing it. Some coaches talk about “embrace the suck”. Control what you control teaches you to focus on the things you can change and not stress about the things you cannot. You can control your attitude, effort and focus and you cannot control the weather, your opponent, or the outcome. It really gives you an internal focus on the process. Memento Mori teaches you to “Be in the Moment” “Be where your feet are”. It also teaches you to not get too “puffed up” and caught up with yourself because one day you will die whether you are wealthiest king, the poorest pauper or the GOAT.
Memento Mori taught me to Enjoy the moment, the process. Six years ago one of my best friends (Erik Kier Mathison) lost his life in an instant. That day struck me and has stayed with me. Last year on the five year anniversary I wrote about my great friend Erik in “Enjoy Life” and you can read that HERE.
This has shaped how I try to live my life. I changed jobs because I didn’t want to look back and regret not taking a chance. I ride a motorcycle as often as I can because it brings me joy. I know that is taking a chance and I could die in a motorcycle accident, but I could die any day of many different causes. I enjoy riding and don’t take extreme risks but riding allows me to Enjoy Today. If that is how I go that is what was supposed to happen.
I enjoy strength training. There is a risk (though it is much lower than most people believe). There are huge health benefits both physically and mentally. I enjoy the process of following a plan, a process. I enjoy doing hard things and pushing myself. The act of straining helps keep me in the moment. In the middle of a heavy set of squats you need to stay in the moment. I am training for the future but even if the future for me does not exist the strength training has purpose because it brings me joy
We mourn our losses because we miss our friends and because we all like to think we have a lot of time. Memento Mori is like Carpe Diem (seize the day, or more accurately pluck the day). All we really have is the present because tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.
“When the longest- and shortest-lived of us dies their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any of us can be deprived is the present, since this is all we own, and nobody can lose what is not theirs.”
- Marcus Aurelius
If you are reading this “Pluck the Day" because Memento Mori