As sometimes happens with the company I keep, a recent conversation made its way around to the concept of memento mori, which in turn reminded me of the Freshman year English class where I first learned about it. At the time it was one of those concepts that I got the gist of without really understanding much beyond that. This is, I suspect, a fairly standard response for an eighteen year old: we’re old enough to know that we’re mortal, but a lot of us haven’t gone much deeper than that yet. Probably because we’re all still pretty sure that we’re actually invincible. Which is likely also why I found the idea more than a little unnerving.
Which is why it’s vaguely amusing that it’s now more comforting than anything else.
I’m finite. This life will come to an end, sooner or later. There’s a limit to what I will be able to accomplish. Taken alone, that’s more than a little hopeless. But let me frame it a different way: I’m limited, which means there is a limit to the harm I can do as well. I am not responsible for the ultimate fate of the world, only my own actions. I don’t need to carry a crippling fear that I’ll screw everything up while trying to do the opposite; I’m just not that big, and the one who is takes joy in offering redemption.
I’m not sure if that’s what the medieval Christian philosophers were going for with their own meditations on the subject, but hey. This is what I’ve got.