Remember the Skulls

On this 2nd day of my writing publicly every day, I’m pondering death.

It may not be what you expect. For me, pondering death is a good thing.

I’ve been thinking about writing and art and why I want to do this daily writing thing. Is it because, as a middle-aged male in America, I fear death?

It’s a good question.

I just got back from a 2-week vacation in Italy and Paris with my family. We saw lots of art, and I could not help but notice themes of death in every direction.

The skulls, in particular, caught my attention.

As a literature major, I picked up that skulls, when handled well, can cause one to wonder. Like Hamlet, a skull reminds us that we are mortal and our time here on Earth is limited.

On my return from Europe, my wife presented me a fathers day gift: two glass tumblers, each with a skull and crossbones in the bottom. The bones look up at you to remind you with every sip.

I must have been seeking answers to the big questions because I picked up an old standby book, Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers.

It only took one page into the into for Moyers to give me an answer.

“What [James] Joyce called the “grave and constant” in human suffering Campbell knew to be a principal theme of classical mythology. “The secret cause of all suffering”, he said, “is mortality itself, which is the prime condition of life. It cannot be denied if life is to be confirmed.”

In that last sentence the “it” is mortality. Mortality cannot be denied. “It” is noticing skulls and remembering your death, “momento mori”, as the ancients said.

THAT is what I’m doing writing every day.

I’m not denying mortality. I’m seeking and pondering the skulls I see everywhere.

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