Saturday, September 08, 2007

Memento Mori

This is a picture of some interesting graffiti I saw in Europe. Memento Mori is an ancient practice of constantly reminding yourself that you will die. To our modern tastes this seems morbid, but medievals believed the thought of their own mortality would make them live life better. Now we are encouraged not to think of death, or to think of it in euphemistic terms.

Even as someone who works with death I am surprised at how I go about my life as if I will never die. While avoiding death is universal to all creatures, shunning even the thought of our death is unique to our culture. It reminds me of a fascinating quote I read while at L'abri:

“Today... death has become a taboo: nobody must tell the dying man the he must die, and the funeral cosmetics put the mask of life on the corpse. For us the natural processes of decay have become just as shocking as as the natural processes of copulation and birth were a century ago. Our great-grandparents said that babies were found under cabbage leaves or were brought by the stork. Our children will probably say that those who have 'passed away' are changed into flowers or are sleeping somewhere in a beautiful garden... Man can no longer cope with his finitude.”

-Helmut Thielicke

No comments: