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Memento Mori (Remember Your Death)

Memento mori. Latin. Literally, “remember your death.”

Underneath a relatively nondescript church near the Piazza Barberini in Rome lie several tiny chapels lined with the bones of over 3,700 Capuchin monks, buried by their order between the years 1528 and 1870. Collectively, these chapels are known as the Capuchin Crypt.

Capuchin Crypt Image credit Dnalor_01, source Wikipedia Commons. (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Many might see these bone arrangements as macabre. To the Catholic Church they are a reminder of the frailty and shortness of life. To me, they are refreshingly metal. 🤟

Both the crypt and the phrase have always captivated me. I will happily admit that, first and foremost, they appeal to the teenage fantasy fan that haunts my meatsuit. Beyond that, though, they’re a sobering reminder of the value that each moment holds for us. A reminder to focus on the present, on what we’re doing now, that our actions will outlive us – especially when our every keystroke is immortalized by the Internet.

I think it’s easy, as a developer, to get caught up in the mindset of “ship fast,” with deadlines looming large and a constant deluge of hotfixes demanding immediate attention. We often get trapped in a loop of slamming out commits, builds, and releases at an ever-increasing rate, growing increasingly out of touch with the present.

Over time, this leads to stress, frustration, and gradually decreasing quality of code. If we don’t take time every now and then to “reset” that thought process and draw our attention back into the present, it’ll only get worse.

It’s not easy to remember that, though, with CEOs and CTOs and project managers and scrum masters breathing down your neck. I get it. You have to fix that bug now, ship that other feature yesterday, and the marketing team just sold somebody on two-factor auth but you’re still resetting passwords manually.

Just remember that one day you will die, and that you will be remembered by the work you do now, in this moment. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself if what you’re doing now is really the legacy you’d like to leave behind.

Is your work up to your standards? Is what you’re doing right now truly worth spending your ever-decreasing time in this mortal coil on? If you can’t answer these questions with a confident yes, change something.

Memento mori.

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