Remember, you must die- mission 03

 
 Rachel Fuller

Rachel Fuller

As a Buddhist, part of my practice is to reflect on death. At times death has been quite close. Someone I’ve loved has died or was in the process of dying. Then the occasional health scare to remind me of mortality. Suddenly death is on the agenda. But for most of us, lucky enough not to be living in a war-torn country, we can go whole days, even whole weeks without thinking of death.

But we must.

At night when you lie down, ask yourself whether you might die in bed during the night, or whether you are sure if you are going to get up in the morning.  When you rise, ask yourself whether you might die some time during the day.  And reflect that there is no certainty at all that you will be going to bed during the evening…

 Meditate like the Kadampa Geshes of old, who were always thinking about death at every moment.  At night, they would turn their bowls upside down, which is only done when a person died.  And thinking how the next day there might be no need to light a fire because they had died, they would never cover the embers for the night.
— Patrul Rimpoche
 Luis Melendez, Still Life with Salmon - Creative Commons

Luis Melendez, Still Life with Salmon - Creative Commons

How do we remember this? One thing we can do is to make a ‘memento mori’.

Traditionally memento mori are a type of still life painting. Still life images are simply an arrangement of ‘everyday objects’ painted or photographed.    

 Kevin Best - Memento mori- Creative Commons   

Kevin Best - Memento mori- Creative Commons

 

A memento mori is a still life picture which reminds the viewer that one day they must die.

Traditionally the collection of objects would include maybe a skull, a candle that had been blown out, or petals falling from flowers.

 

You can find these ‘memento mori’ in contemporary photography. Often the objects are less obvious, but there is a sense of ending, or the passing of time. Wolfgang Tillmans has many images that to me are memento mori, you can see more of his pictures at his website.

 Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans

 Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans

So, the challenge this week is to make a memento mori. An image that says, ‘remember, you must die’. But, it should be an image with beauty in it. To reflect deeply on death, we need to be drawn in by beauty or love, otherwise they’ll just be a ‘pulling away.

This is primarily a photography assignment, but feel free to experiment, it could be a drawing, a painting or a picture made of words.
You can find and arrange the objects yourself, or just see what life arranges for you.

The final image is a number of objects, together, telling us, ‘remember, you must die’.