We all have two lives, and the second one begins when we realize we only have one.

~Confucius

Mementomorium

Vision And Philosophy


(3 min read)

Imagine arriving at a place that resembles a cemetery, but instead of graves, there are sensory deprivation chambers stylized as caskets. The sign over the entrance says: "Mementomorium: Transforming the fear of dying into the happiness of living." You are ushered into the Inner Sanctuary by a host with a group of others like you, seeking one of the most unusual experiences in the world...

You are going to a symbolic burial ceremony—yours! Yes, you will be put into a casket made with thick wooden walls that is light-proof and sound-insulated. It is also ventilated and cushioned for comfort. It’s designed to deprive your senses from any external stimuli.

The psychological challenge of starring in a burial ceremony, albeit symbolic, getting into a casket, albeit adorned and unlocked, and spending time alone with oneself may not be for everyone. So, you probably want to ask, why would anyone do such a thing? The answer is simple, yet not obvious.

The ceremony employs engaging and captivating art forms. You hear the sounds of harmoniously chiming bells as you change into soft, comfortable clothes. Finally, you approach the casket—the lid is at your feet. You lower yourself into the casket, lay down and adjust the pillows to find a comfortable position. And then the lid is shut. You are about to experience the transformative powers of short-term sensory deprivation, known to be conducive to meditation, reflection and epiphanies—and coupled with the setting, aimed to induce a psychologically piercing experience.

In contrast to the vibrant ceremony, the utter darkness and silence inside the casket are stunning. You can't tell the difference whether your eyes are open or closed. The only sound you hear is your own breath. A few minutes into the session, you realize that keeping track of the time might not be an easy task. Your mind begins to wander.

The medieval practice of Memento Mori (remembering that you will die), paradoxically enough, allows us to live life to the fullest. As Seneca put it: "It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it... We are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing." This means that the clarity of perspective and meaningful priorities, necessary for achieving the happiness of a flourishing life lived intentionally, are only possible through acknowledging and embracing one’s own mortality. Hiding in denial may feel comforting, but at what cost?

Back in the casket, confronted with the self, you shed denial and delusions, which leads you to the revelation of life’s true finitude—the ultimate perspective that many reach only on their deathbed. Mementomorium is not about glorifying death, nor is it about downplaying the sadness of the permanent separation with a loved one that death entails. It is about celebrating our shared state of being mortal, which is one and the same as being alive, for that which cannot die is not alive. It is about the path to true happiness, achieved by owning the fear of dying and metamorphosing it into the happiness of living.

And so the answer to the question of why anyone would do such a thing is simple: we believe it makes for happier human beings.

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