Memento mori (Latin): Remember, you will die.
You and everyone you know will die. It’s not the cheeriest way to start a column, but it’s the truth nonetheless. Around 151,600 people die every day, but that doesn’t make death any less painful or the idea of it any less surreal. A grim reminder that our days are numbered, and our lives are ending a minute at a time is not something all of us want to confront, but the fact that over 108 billion people have died in history to the 7.7 billion people currently alive today is a stark reminder of our own demise. We will die, inevitably; but when we leave our physical forms, that shouldn’t mean it’s the end of our time on Earth.
I’ve had my first brush with death earlier this year when my dog of six years abruptly died this October. I’ve never experienced death before in my life, and I couldn’t bare watching him take his last little gasps for life. It led me into a downward existential spiral of thinking about death (as if I needed more of that already)—and how much time I’ve really spent on Earth.
I’ve realized that when you’re on the clock, you know how much time is left to do the things you’re supposed to do, and the people leaning on you to accomplish it. When we take a step back from our biased views of our lives and see the bigger picture of what we’re trying to attain before we die, it seems less of a hassle to lose that extra hour of sleep or exert that extra effort to get something done.
Not everyone has it easy though, as death is only a subconscious thought at the back of the minds of most people, sort of a familiar inevitability that only sometimes makes them have the creeps. Yet for us millennials on the cusp of adulthood and living out the rest of our lives, phrases like “I’m ready to end it all,” and “us2 q n mamatay,” are everyday phrases that escape our lips without a second thought. This nihilistic approach to life has been ingrained in most personalities for so long that we forget it shouldn’t be passed off as a trait in the first place.
It won’t matter much what you give, but what you have given up.
There’s a difference between normalizing and glamorizing, and when it comes to death and despair, the line is as thin as it gets. Dark humor about death has become shorthand for expressing frustration to a minor inconvenience to a general discomfort about the state of the world—and we all know it’s not in a good one. Actively wanting to die is not the same as being indifferent to life, and most millennials (myself included), mistake the former when only they feel the latter, and as a result, don’t do anything about. The question we should be asking ourselves is not why we feel the need to ponder death, but what is it that makes our daily lives so unappealing.
Existential dread about the political climate, the economy, our future, and the nonsensical state of affairs of our future has forced us to feel out of the loop with the world today, and thus feel the need to practice escapism on our own terms. Like earlier forms of Dadaism, a 1920s movement born from making light of the mundane, our nihilism and insistence to die is simply a way for us to cope with how lost we feel in the world through the modern art form that is the Internet.
In a twisted way, thinking about death makes us more immune to not caring about our actions, because we’re all going to go anyway, right? But that’s when we get things wrong. The best way to stop being indifferent about life is to take part in it as much as we can. To take that extra step just for the hell of it, to go ahead and share that experience even if it makes your bones tired at the end. It’s about how much we give a part of ourselves to others while we’re still alive that will make it worth it when they only have memories with us to hold on to. At the end of your lives, or when we get those degrees after graduation, it won’t matter much what you give, but what you have given up for others. How much of yourself have you given up to those that trust you? How much of your appreciation have you shared to those that deserve it? Touching as many people’s lives and doing right by them is the only solace we can attain after we’ve passed on (or, alright, graduated). We will never really overcome death, but we can overcome how much space it takes up in our minds.
We will all die—but that’s no excuse for us to not try living. Enjoy and scrutinize life, but never forget what you’re living for—nobody gets out alive anyway. It’s not the cheeriest way to end the column, but it’s the truth nonetheless.