Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Memento Mori: What It Really Means

It's Latin.  It means "Remember your mortality" or "Remember you will die."  The symbol most often associated with this Latin phrase is a skull and crossbones.  It's kind of a dark subject, and something many of us don't want to think about, but it is none-the-less true.  We'll be dead for centuries, but we're alive on this Earth for just a very short number of decades.  The skull and crossbones does have a Masonic connection--most often associated with the Latin phrase "Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit"--translated "Whom virtue unites, death will not separate." 

Of course, I didn't know any of that when I bought this ring shortly after I was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft in 2005.  I was very enthusiastic about the fraternity as I went through my degrees--that hasn't worn off yet.  As soon as I saw this ring on eBay, I liked it for several reasons.  It was sterling silver (which meant I could afford it), it had a really cool skull and crossbones on it (who doesn't love pirate-lore) and some Latin words that seemed very mysterious at the time.  But what I liked most about it, was there was something very odd about the ring (at least here in America).  Masons with sharp eyes will be quick to notice it because you don't see it often here in the USA--in fact, nobody I've pointed it out to over the years has ever seen it before. 

Here in the USA, we have two kinds of Blue Lodge rings--3rd Degree Master Mason rings, and for those of us that have served as a Worshipful Master in the East, Past Master rings are also very popular.  There's your choice.  But this ring is German.  Things are a little different there.  This isn't a Master Mason ring--it's a Fellowcraft ring.  That meant I didn't have to wait to become a Master Mason to start wearing a Mason ring--so I quickly ordered it.  Of course, by the time it was made in Germany and shipped seven weeks later, I had already been raised a Master Mason. 

I wear this ring just about every day and have since I got it.  As I've come to know more about Freemasonry, my ring has taken on a much deeper meaning.  That skull stares at me each day over the top of my mousepad at work.  It looks at me as I've written my books.  It's looking at me right now as I write this blog.  One of my co-workers has commented from time to time over the years that she thinks it's a little creepy.  So I finally explained to her what it means--at least to me.

The skull and crossbones associated with Memento Mori isn't a reminder you're going to die--we all know that whether we want to think about it or not.  It's a reminder that we're alive!  For a very short time.  It's a reminder that the clock is ticking away, and what we do every day is important, because we never know when that last sand in the hour glass is going to run through.  It gives us a sense of urgency.  It makes us think maybe we shouldn't put things off until tomorrow.  It's one of the greatest lessons I've learned from Freemasonry.  It's changed the way I think, and it's changed the way I live life.  It's led me to adopt the motto "if not now--then when?"

As Benjamin Franklin said, "You may delay, but time will not."


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