Friday, February 4, 2011

Ennui and Memento Mori

It's rainy and cold out. No snow, though, my northern brethren and sistren. That and only one sub job this week inspires a certain ennui. What a great word, invented by the masters of listlessness themselves, the French. I realize the industriousness required to blog under such circumstances to be quite ironic, but hang with me.

The text of the day comes from Pink Floyd's 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. The lyrics are from the song "Time". The wiki author aptly labels the song a memento mori. Written by all the members of the band, all copyrights theirs, etc.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

These words resonate with me strongly. As Cornell West and others have noted, we are a death denying culture. Memento mori used to be an extremely popular expression in Western art. But we're through with all that sad stuff, the stuff that reminds us that we are not immortal after all, in spite of all the gadgets and other shiny things we surround ourselves with. Our culture denies the depth element of human existence, the part that bristles beneath the surface. We've invented everything we can to keep the subterranean in its place. But we lose so much meaning by doing so. 

The other important aspect of memento mori is that it isn't designed to be depressing. The point is to inspire one to live in light of what's coming. We just automatically assume that thoughts of death have to be depressing. So let's not run from those little reminders of mortality when we come across them, but ponder them and resolve to live ever more meaningfully. 

No comments:

Post a Comment