Core Decorum: Memento Mori

Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang.

We have arrived at one of those lulls in the school year in which it is suddenly obvious that the semester is quickly passing by. Midterms are over and Thanksgiving break draws near, after which finals will soon follow.

Before the school year comes to an end, we are at an opportune time for reflection on life and death: Halloween and, for some, the Feast of All Saints.

By remembering others and being aware of our own eventual death, we can remain cognizant of what we should focus on in life while we still have the chance. Earthly accomplishments will whither away and our lives with it. There is nothing in this life that is not transient.

This can be a time not only to commemorate the dead, but also to remember how precious life is.

With hope, death is not just the end to earthly life, but also the beginning of eternal life. Moreover, the limit that death gives to life can also encourage us to spend our time well on earth.

We can make use of time by enjoying the beauty of every day. The growth and decay of the cycles of the year, the different stages of our own lives, and the presence of those who surround us are all effects of time and also can bring some of life’s richest joys just by our perception of them.

With death in mind we can be re-inspired to both live virtuously and to cherish life as we live it. We have limited time to live well.

Remembering death is not to morbidly dwell on it, but to use it as motivation to appreciate our limited time. We run the risk of constant dissatisfaction with life by constantly looking toward the future while neglecting what’s happening around us each day. Although it is necessary to prepare for the future, to study for tests and write essays, there is something to be said for intentionally setting aside some time to enjoy life in the present.

The solace that comes from spending time doing the things that we enjoy and being in the presence of those whom we love is a tonic for the soul. We cannot escape time or death;they should not be cause to despair, but to live as fully as we can.

The time we spend delighting in the beauty of this world, which will pass so soon, is time well spent. The knowledge of death, an inescapable fact of life, can make the precious time that we have even sweeter.


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