Take a moment, if you would, and imagine that you find yourself sitting in a church at a funeral. You aren’t sure who’s funeral it is but when you look around you see many familiar faces. Curious, you walk to the front of the church and peer into the casket only to realize that you have come face to face with yourself and you suddenly comprehend that you are attending your own funeral!
You cannot interact with anybody so you take a seat and observe the service. There are four speakers: your family (close and extended members have a chance to speak), a friend, a co-worker, and one from a community organization.
Close your eyes and visualize what you’d like each of these speakers to say about you and the type of life you lived. What kind of man were you?
Write down what you’d like each of them to say. This is important! Seriously.
Memento Mori is Latin for “remember that you have to die” and, although it is not a concept which is unique to Freemasonry, it is something which we are taught to be mindful of through the lessons and symbols we are taught.
Remembering that our time on this Earth is limited can be scary and reminders of this fact may be unpleasant and morbid, which is very likely why many Grand Lodges (including GLOTX) tend to downplay the related symbolism. That being said Memento Mori is a powerful tool which can drive us to become better versions of ourselves. Make no mistake, a man who practices this is working in the quarries and smoothing that ashlar on a daily basis.
As I’ve mentioned before, goals are very important for individuals and organizations and in the exercise above you’ve already established your life goals, even if you didn’t realize this.
Think about it! What you want people to say about you after your work here on this Earth is done is a reflection of the values that you hold closest to your heart. If you look back over the list you made you might experience some different feelings based off what you wrote and what you think your values really are but the things you wrote down are what you want to be remembered by, meaning they are the most important to you.
This list represents your life goals, which means that these are the values you want to embody when the end comes.
Putting It All Together
When you create goals you have to decide what you want to accomplish and when you wish to do so. You also have to plan to reach your goal, which means you have to look at the current situation and determine how you’ll accomplish your goal in the time you’ve given yourself. This “what, when, and how” is the foundation for beginning with the end in mind. As Steven R. Covey put it:
To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. (98)
When we apply this concept and the values we’ve written down to Memento Mori we have an end in mind, which is our ‘what’ (or the values we set as our goals); we have a ‘when’, which could be…anytime; and we have a ‘how’, which is unique to every man.
Don’t think about death constantly but do reflect regularly on the list you’ve made and ask yourself how you would be remembered. Are you living a life that is cultivating your core values? Are you the kind of man at home, work, and in the community that you can be proud of? Are you the kind of friend you know you want to be?
Memento Mori reminds us, not only that we have to die, but that it can happen at any time. It also, indirectly, tells us that if we want to be remembered for the values we listed then we have to get to work on it. Immediately.
I also want to point out that I keep mentioning values when I refer to the things we listed. This is because if you look at your list you are highly unlikely to have listed material or extrinsic things, instead, I suspect the majority of things listed are intrinsic things which reflect your core values.
I believe Covey said it best:
When you begin with the end in mind, you gain a different perspective. One man asked another on the death of a mutual friend, “How much did he leave?” His friend responded, “He left it all.” (99)
I hope this post was insightful. If it encouraged you to reflect and learn anything about yourself then please share it here or on my Facebook page.
Covey, Stephen R. “Habit 2 Begin With The End In Mind.” The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989. 98-99. Print.