At some point in the future, unless significant scientific advances are made in your lifetime, you are going to die.
Whether you’ve thought about it or not, this is the single driving fact behind pretty much everything that makes us human. In his Iliad, Homer posits through Achilles’ voice that humans only strive to achieve greatness because unlike the gods they will eventually die; as mortals we must seek to immortalize ourselves through memories and tales of our deeds and accomplishments. The evolutionary drive to reproduce comes from the fact that our generation will eventually die out and if we have not produced a new generation, humanity will simply cease to exist. The notion has even crept subconsciously into the things we buy and build — we expect a car to die every ten years or so, a piece of technology to need replacement. Our batteries die. Our phone dies. Movements die out. Hype dies down. And we accept all this largely because it is ingrained somewhere deep inside us that we will die eventually, so it is natural that other things should die around us in similar fashion.
Sometimes we seem to forget about death. When famous, aged celebrities die, there is general shock and surprise. It seemed, for example, that plenty of people expected Alan Rickman to live forever (or at least until the age of 394). But of course there was never any escaping it — something in the realm of 100 billion people have died thus far, and that pattern shows no sign of stopping.
(Well, this is depressing thus far…)
I chose to write about this subject today because of one of my oft-repeated quotations from the indomitably awesome online video game League of Legends: “You will remember Yorick Mori.” (This is a line that Yorick, the greatest and most popular champion in the game, occasionally says when he walks around.) It is a seemingly meaningless phrase, but upon vaguely close inspection is obviously a reference to memento mori.
Memento mori is the medieval Latin theory and practice of reflection on mortality. It focused especially on considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. Now, this is rather dreary, but there are several modern incarnations (just listen to, you know, any music ever). I’ll highlight a few examples for you that embody the theme of reflection upon mortality:
- The Script’s “Live Like We’re Dying”
- Art of Dying’s “Die Trying”
- Halestorm’s “Apocalyptic” (…metaphorically.)
- Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends”
What do these songs have in common?
(I don’t know because I’ve never listened to music before so I’ve never heard any of those songs. Please, enlighten me.)
They’re not depressing. That’s the answer. They don’t treat earthly life as trivial pursuits. Instead, in modern times, the response to the inevitability of death is to take life as seriously as possible. To quote Olaf (another League of Legends champion): “Leave nothing behind.” Live a fulfilling life, pursue what you consider important, leave no words unsaid, or some combination of the above…
One day, you will die. Until then, remember to live life to its fullest — whatever that means to you. Dance until the world ends, or tell ’em that you love ’em while you got the chance to say, or if it takes forever, die trying anyway, or… you know… love Lzzy Hale apocalyptic. Not that you really needed me to tell you to want to do that.
Until then, remember Yorick Mori. As always, thanks for reading.