Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Memento Mori

http://www.tomsarmo.com/
Detail from The Hermit

I tend to place a lot of tiny skulls within the borders of my art. Skulls fascinated me as a little kid, and continue to do so--even more as modern culture preposterously tries to refute aging and death.

http://www.tomsarmo.com/

http://www.tomsarmo.com/
Detail crops from Sir Baffle and the Dragon

But in the past, images of death in art--memento mori--served to calm the frenzied life. They were reminders that existence on earth is finite, and motivations to spend lives honorably and in meaningful pursuits that had little to do with the acquisition of money or power.

http://www.tomsarmo.com/

"Memento mori is Latin for “Remember death.” The phrase is believed to originate from an ancient Roman tradition in which a servant would be tasked with standing behind a victorious general as he paraded though town. As the general basked in the glory of the cheering crowds, the servant would whisper in the general’s ear:Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!”--“Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”

Now more than ever, it seems that political "leaders" and the super-wealthy could use this kind of reminder.  Maybe a lack of any spiritual belief--or inheritance laws allowing their swollen bank accounts to live on for their families--somehow allows them to forget The End?

Hard to know. But nonetheless, many of them live as though their earthly life is infinite. Rather than seeking liberty and justice for all; revenge, money-grubbing, and ego-stoking are their top considerations. That's pretty bizarre for anyone, but especially for people nearing the end of their lives.

http://www.tomsarmo.com/
It's not my business to teach anyone anything about the mysteries of death, or an afterlife. But the philosophy and art tradition of the memento mori is much appreciated. And as stated above, I like drawing skulls.

http://www.tomsarmo.com/
Plus, there's something exhilarating about facing the fact of the death we all will share. It frees one up to work at leaving the world a better place for others.

http://www.tomsarmo.com/
While many images of Death are warnings, I'll leave you with something different...

Saint Francis of Assisi reflected often on the mystery of death, and referred to its personification as "Sister Death". She is the one who comes to deliver us from life's suffering. In this sculpture (artist unknown to me) the placard she holds reads:
"To die with the sacred joy of not having done harm to oneself nor to a single soul.”

Thanks for the visit!




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