It’s interesting that the way we think about death at different times in our history is a useful expression of our broader cultural and social praxis.
In visual art, in music, and even in family homes, up until the 20th century, the momento mori (remember death) served as a reminder that we while we are alive, we should attempt to perfect our character, and embrace the importance of living a worthy life. It probably also reflected how dangerous it was to be alive, and how lucky we were if we survived childhood.
Now, we consider death through our bucket list
; what do we want to do before we die? A lot of the time it is purely transactional, and mostly self-centred. Companies have turned it into a business, and marketing material tells us that we need to “tick-off” items from our bucket list. It reflects an attitude that we expect, even demand, to live a long life, but also represents a view of death that is not about serving others, but about serving ourselves.
I’m not sure whether either is better or worse, but it does reflect a broader attitude towards how humans have lived their lives (and thought about death) throughout history.
Do you have a bucket list?
Do you have a momento mori to remind you of death?