Life Before Death
We have a lot of favorite Latin phrases here at Maritime Supply Co. While memento mori is one of our bestsellers, we want to spend some time with its younger sibling, memento vivere.
The motto memento vivere, meaning “remember to live” or “remember you must live,” was coined in the mid 19th century. The new motto supposedly came as a direct counterpart to memento mori. If you’re not familiar with our bestselling phrase already, it means “remember your mortality.” The new adage was meant to be a contrast to its complement and remind people that becoming obsessed with the idea of mortality was unhealthy.
The creators of memento vivere were never trying to negate the wisdom of memento mori. Instead, they merely wanted to temper it with joy and lightheartedness to avoid falling into hopelessness or apathy. It is easy for human brains to focus on negativity around them. Considering your mortality is a worthwhile perspective on life, but it can take some people to a dark place. Remembering that there is so much to get out of life will prevent any morbid preoccupation and depressed “tunnel vision.”
Oil painting, depicting life and death
Life & Death: A Balancing Act
In many ways though, it’s necessary to understand memento mori before we can move onto memento vivere.
The inevitability of death, as described by memento mori, can be a powerful motivator. At its core, the phrase encourages us to live every day to its fullest potential and recognize the opportunity every new day brings. For some, this may look like tackling goals that you’ve been avoiding. For others, this may manifest as confronting internal strife and making peace with your past. We’ve heard from many of our crew that memento mori reminds them to invest in the intangible parts of life that often prove the most fulfilling: family, relationships, and community.
Memento vivere also speaks to the valuable, intangible aspects of life and adds a sense of levity. Memento vivere imparts an enjoyment of the “non-productive” things in life. Now this doesn’t mean that a vivere mentality devolves into hedonism or an abandonment of responsibilities - quite the opposite. Think of the contrast of mori and vivere as the balance between “work hard, play hard.” It’s important to work on self-improvement and self-awareness and be mindful of our obligations. However, we don’t want to take ourselves so seriously that we lose sight of the joyful nature of life. Being aware of the finite nature of life should not overshadow your capacity for spontaneity and fun. It’s just as important to make time for in-depth discussions and life lessons with family, quality experiences with our significant others, and service and camaraderie within our communities.
Joie De Vivre: Exuberant Enjoyment
Joie de vivre is a French phrase often borrowed by English speakers and means “exuberant enjoyment of life.” The phrase has an interesting dual nature. It can mean an enjoyment for specific things in life like food or conversation, or it can be meant as a joy for everything. It can even indicate a philosophy of life and traces its roots back to our own memento vivere.
More than anything, joie de vivre implies that in order to truly enjoy the things life has to offer, you have to be fully present in the moment. Going through the motions of spending time with loved ones or creating adventures for yourself isn’t enough - if your mind is elsewhere, these actions are only a facade for dutiful fulfillment with none of the necessary heart. It is necessary to be intentional with your time and presence in order to embody exuberance and enthusiasm for life.
Memento mori can be a very finite mindset if we let it consume us. If you’re always looking at the deadline, it will always be looming over you. Memento vivere reminds us to have an eye on the space leading up to the inevitable end and focus on what really matters in the meantime. It doesn’t matter how short or long the time left to us may be - it’s still plenty of time to find big and little joys.
Remember the beauty and light around you and the life you have left to live, and live it to the fullest.