Memento Mori Coin
The rehearsal and reminder of death is a core Stoic practice.
By rehearsing and remembering our mortality, we can overcome it, we can live with a sense of urgency and meaning, and as we reflect, death puts into perspective what is and is not important in life.
In short, we remember death so that we may live.
In the eyes of the Stoics, the meditation of death was not a morbid or depressing act, it actually leads to a far more fruitful and enjoyable life.
Knowing our time is limited means we no longer waste it.
Knowing death can arrive at any moment, we live with a sense of urgency and vigour.
Compared to death, suddenly our grudges, fears and ambitions seem infantile.
With this coin, I wanted it to evoke a strong and meaningful reaction to those who hold and look upon it, and a coin which told a story on which we can meditate and reflect upon.
My hope is that it is both a piece of art and full of practical meaning.
FRONT OF COIN
The front of the coin features the well known maxim Memento Mori: “Remember you must die” .
The main imagery is of Marcus Aurelius’s and a skull separated by a sword hanging by a thread.
Marcus’s face is calm, stern and unperturbed. This state of mind is something we all hope to achieve in life.
The skull has a hallow almost taunting smile. For what can we do but smile at death?
This contrast of life and death, and how death mocks us. With Marcuses image giving inspiration on how we can face it.
The Sword is inspired from Ciceros tale ‘the Sword of Damocles’, where King Dionysius II hung a sword over a court flatters head by nothing but a single horse hair to show him the perils of being a King, and that danger surrounds him constantly.
Cicero uses this tale to say that death hangs above us all as the sword loomed above Damocles and like the thread of horsehair which kept it suspended, the line between life and death is fragile and can descend upon us at any moment.
BACK OF COIN
The back features an apple tree, halve of which is in full bloom and heavy with fruit and some apples fallen on the ground.
The second half of the tree is stripped bear and nothing but a skeleton.
It symbolises the Stoic belief that death is nothing but a natural process, and in the same ways the trees grow, flourish and bear fruit, the apples must drop when their time comes and all must return to the earth from which they came. We too must follow this natural process.
The centre features my own little prayer I say to myself, which is a play on the words of Marcus Aurelius intertwined with the tale of Damocles.
That life is fragile and death looms above, this we must remember in all our thoughts, word and actions.
On either side of the coin, there are 2 hour glasses, one full and one empty, a popular image in Memento Mori art, it reminds us that our time is finite and on day our hourglasses will run empty.
The bottom of the coin has a quote from Seneca. “That your faults die before you do”.
I chose this quote as that is our main task day to day, to remove the faults within us and live in accord with Virtue and nature.
Ultimately we are against the clock and we don’t know when the time will run out. So each day remember we must strive to ensure our faults die first.
Only by removing our faults, our base desires and emotions, our passions can we live like free rational beings. It is a reminder that we must not delay conquering your faults, we must challenge them here and now.