Memento Mori

“There is no death – there is only the Force”

Memento Mori – Death is inevitable and anything that lives is destined to die. To live is to ultimately die, there is no escaping mortality. Most of us have a natural fear of death. It’s rare to find anyone who doesn’t and even rarer to meet someone who wants to die. As creatures that are conscious of their own mortality from a very early age, we humans have a strange relationship with death. It can raise in us terror, and denial but also peace and acceptance.

The Jedi viewed death not as an end but a transformation of existence from one reality to another. Life is eternal energy called the Force occupying a vessel. The Force lives on after the death of the organism. Everything returns to the Force. Depending on your beliefs you may view it the same way. You might also view death as the final stage of the decline of the organism which supports life and consciousness. Once the brain dies, so does consciousness and everything else. Only the corpse remains. There is no soul or Force released to return to the source. There is no afterlife.

“Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall. That is the way of things… the way of the Force.” – Yoda

Recently I had to confront the death of a loved one and it forced me to meditate on death. She died after a long battle with cancer. Her poise and dignity during her illness one of the most Jedi-like things I have ever seen. The decline was rapid and painful but was received with acceptance and surrender.

I found that my grieving process was short. I quickly accepted it as the will of the force and felt that to grieve was a normal but at the same time so was letting go. It also made me consider my own mortality and personal relationship with death. Rather than throwing a dark shadow over me, the sadness lifted, and I was struck with a sense of peace. I realised that death is not the end but a new beginning. Not just for the soul of the departed but also for those that are left behind.

“Luminous Being we are, not this crude matter” – Yoda

Jedi Philosophy like similar philosophies helps prepare us for the vicissitudes of life. Much like Stoicism, it should also prepare us for death. The fifth line in the Jedi Code “There is no death – there is only the Force” places the concept of remembering death central to the philosophy. The Stoics contemplated death and reminded themselves that all men are mortal. The tenant of Memento Mori reminds us of our short and ephemeral physical existence in this universe. We should not reject death or fear it but accept it as an undeniable part of existence and when the time comes, we will be prepared to also face death with acceptance and surrender.

To live well and die well we must therefore prepare for something we prefer not to think about it.

“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.” – Yoda

Contemplate death.
Every day contemplate death. Meditate on it. We should remind ourselves that suffering is caused by attachment and that freedom from attachment is the end of suffering. Loosen attachments to everything in life that your grasp on to, including your identity and life. Contemplation of death is not a morbid exercise. It is there to remind you of your own mortality and place in the universe as an indivisible point of reference in an eternal stream of consciousness. You are a part of the Force.

Prepare mentally and spiritually for death.
The practices of physical fitness, meditation and healthy living make us appreciate life more and live better and longer. Mental and spiritual health is vital for coping with grief and for how we respond to news of a life-threatening condition. Ask yourself, “how would I feel if you or someone close received a terminal cancer diagnosis today”? If that strikes you down in terror, you need to work on contemplating death (above).

Leave your house in order.
When someone dies, usually suddenly, it can leave loved one’s left behind picking up the pieces and trying to put things in order. Get a will and testimony written up. Make sure that your affairs are managed so that in the event of death loved ones are not left to resolve matters that remain after you are gone. I keep an envelope with details of insurances and IRA, debts and assets as well as login details to social media and online accounts. If you can afford it, have a funeral plan to avoid burdening others with the cost.

Leave memories.
Story telling is a dying art and most of your personal story dies with you if they are not recorded. If you have children, consider writing an account of your life that they can keep. Children are often oblivious to the backstory of their parents, especially their Fathers. Photo albums are largely redundant these days, but photos are precious memories to those that receive them so never discount them. Who can forget the powerful message that family photos presented in the movie “Blade Runner”. Photos let people reach back into their own history and connect with their past.

Make the most of life.
We all have a purpose in life. Find your purpose, live it and dream. You have a divine right to be here so make the most of every day. Fill it with memories rather than things.

Embrace your fate.
Alexander the Great and his mule driver were both buried in the same patch of dirt. Yoda lived for 900 years, and Luke lived for 70. Death is the one common fate that binds the past, present and future. Everyone that has lived before, lives now and will live in the future all share that one common destiny. By embracing that fate, one has more gratitude for the gift of life and feels a greater connection with the Force.

“One with the Force, they are. And our job it is to remember that we will in time, also pass on. Luminous beings are we but temporary vessels, our bodies are. And we shall all find ourselves here in time. A moment of silence, I ask to remember and to move on.” – Yoda