Weekly Brain Tools: Memento Mori

Feb 26, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Past Newsletters

The text below was sent in September 2018 as part of our weekly newsletter. If you enjoy it and want more similar emails delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

I recently found out that someone I knew passed away. He was a fellow runner and blogger, we had been talking online for many years, but I only got the chance to meet him in real life two years ago, at a runners meetup. I vividly remember that early September day, with all the stupid problems that I had back then, including what we discussed when we met. Little things, such as sponsorships, influencers campaigns, the popular mountain marathon that he wanted to compete in the following month, and so on.

This was just before he found out that he’s sick. He’s been reading all my weekly newsletters, sometimes even replying to them. I’m feeling guilty and ashamed that I didn’t have the time to reply back to the last email he sent me…now I never will.

We’re perfectly aware that life is short. We’re reminded of this every single day in the daily news. It’s the only thing in this world we can be certain of, except taxes, as Benjamin Franklin was saying.

So then why do we act like we’re invincible and we’ll live forever? Why is it that we don’t appreciate it more until someone we know passes away? Why are we so ungrateful and not satisfied with what we have?

None of the small problems that seem huge today actually matter. Life’s too short to waste it on meetings, long commutes, refreshing Facebook’s newsfeed, living someone else’s life by watching TV series (or reading mediocre books, for that matter), podcasts we won’t even remember listening to, getting annoyed by today’s traffic, cancelled flights, and so on.

We won’t remember any of these things. So why don’t we shift from the autopilot mode that we’re in and become more aware of what’s really important?

I want to recommend you a book that might help with that awareness – I was reading this last autumn, the day when I found out that my grandmother, who also raised me, will soon die: Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air“. It’s the memoir of a renowned neurosurgeon, about his life and (lost) battle with lung cancer. He started writing the book in his last months, but never got to finish it. His wife wrote the ending chapter. If you want to see who else recommends it, just click here

If you already read it, here’s another extraordinary book that I recommend, from one of my favorite stoics: Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” – I’ve been offering this as a gift to everyone I meet for the first time.

Here’s a quote from it:

You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.

Memento mori.

The text above was sent in September 2018 as part of our weekly newsletter. If you enjoyed it and want more similar emails delivered straight to your inbox, join our mailing list.

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