First of all …. Growing old is a privilege not a punishment. Wrinkles, gray hairs, saggy breasts and balding are all signs of a lengthy well lived life. My personal feeling is that I am firmly against, yet tolerant of the beauty industry pushing and selling such procedures as botox, breast implants, hair transplants or any kind of surgery carried out purely for aesthetic reasons, as I believe that old age should be a source of pride.
But I digress …. By far the most taboo subject is death. Nobody wants to contemplate the finite nature of their own existence, to the extent that we will “bury ourselves” (no pun intended 🙂/gallows humour) with work, studies and a wide range of entertainment to avoid even contemplating such issues.
Civilizations have created over 4000 religions around the world to address the issue of death and create, however far-fetched, an illusion of immortality, fairy tales for adults to sleep cosily, tucked up at night, in the belief that they and their loved ones are protected by an omnipresent, benevolent, stellar entity.
This is all fine, (freedom of religion and expression) if on a personal level it makes you happy, but if we have global organizations willing to “believe” things based on zero empirical evidence; you don’t need to be Einstein to realize how such beliefs can be manipulated and exploited by religious and political leaders around the world, as we have witnessed through 4000 years of human civilization.
To me … most religions give me a “copy and paste” sensation that I am not creating my own meaning in life, but simply copying a “tried and tested” meaning, therefore making me feel just like another religious follower on a production line of followers, stealing me of my individuality.
The ultimate desire of all capitalist or communist governments is “not thinking and not questioning” i.e. this single book contains all the answers you need, in spite of being written in the in the bronze age (not in a modern, literate, technologically advanced society like today), thus creating an obedient nation of consumers, who work endless hours, and pay taxes religiously up to and beyond their own death, as there are even taxes left to be paid after you die.
If you think too deeply, you could suffer from an existential angst, as encapsulated by Nietzsche famous line
“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
For some “the meaning of life” … although a cliche, is about spending as much time as possible with friends and family. This notion is partly true, but I disagree in part as well, as that too leads to dissatisfaction. There are wide ranging variables, such as what your relatives are like i.e. alcoholic or physically and verbally abusive parents. Even pushy parents can create a stress inducing environment. The same applies to badly behaved children or young adults. Not everyone is blessed with a well balanced family.
In addition to this, the divorce rate has been at a constant 60% for several decades, and during our recent pandemic, a high number of couples split up as they were not used to spending so much time confined together in the same apartment.
There are also religious groups, such as the Amish or Buddhist Monks, who spend all their lives together in close proximity, and continue to argue and compete over who is more pious or spiritually pure and obedient than the other, similar to a “Monty Python” sketch.
Furthermore, if your only point of reference is your family, this could lead to nepotism and a general sense that greater society and community are not important. It is common to hear parents say “I would do anything for my child” including corruption, nepotism or simply introducing another selfish, solipsistic person into our society. A “family comes first” mindset can also lead to other kinds of selfishness like tribalism.
As a result of this family driven existence, your only motivation to be a good worker outside your family home, is to make money, so you see the rest of society and humanity as simply a place to work and procure wealth and resources for “los tuyos”, because the only humans you truly value are those you share a biological connection with.
Whether god exists should not matter either way, if there is a god it “might” be a plus if it is a loving, benevolent god …. or a punishment if it is a vindictive, vengeful god … or most likely there is no god at all …. In any case, human beings are omnipotent or even powerless under any of those circumstances.
As mentioned in the title “Memento mori” is an artistic or symbolic trope, acting as a reminder of the inevitability of death. Death is not negative but rather a liberating notion for many individuals and cultures, myself included, as it gives an immediacy to life. It encourages you to take your time tasting your food, feel the music and make love with greater passion, precisely because we know it is finite.
Therefore, my philosophy is that everyone should invent their own meaning of life. As an adult you are emancipated from your parents, and should pursue your own meaning of life, based on a mix of all the external influences you have experienced. It is this unique mix of experience that makes you an individual (sovereignty of the individual), which can be expressed and experienced in thousands of ways. The only rule is not to be reckless with the physical and psychological wellbeing of those around you.
Don’t live the life “others”or even partners, friends and family want you to live, or try to subtly force upon you …live the life that best fits your personality and emotional wellbeing (this could also be a religious or spiritual calling).
If it is physical catharsis you search for, then I recommend singing out loud and dancing on a daily basis in a carefree manner, especially when in the presence of others. Other methods include yoga and meditation or rigorous physical sports.
However, while in the process of pursuing a more relaxed lifestyle, try not to emotionally damage or be blasé to the needs of others, but only to a realistic extent.
If this article goes on any longer … I run the risk of starting my own religion.
Go in peace 🙂