Memento Mori Paperweight - SandThe School of Life
For centuries, artists produced ‘memento mori’, works of art that would remind their viewers of death and usually featured a skull or an hourglass. The point of these works wasn’t to make people despair, but to help them use the thought of death to focus on the real priorities.
Vivid reminders of mortality and the transient nature of life put our prosaic obsessions into question. When measured against the finality of death, the true insignificance of some of our worries is emphasised and we’re given an opportunity to feel a little braver about what we really want and feel.
The School of Life have created a collection of glass paperweights to serve as our own, modern versions of a ‘memento mori’. These objects are both pleasing to look at and should serve as daily inspirations to tackle our most important task: to live in accordance with our true talents and interests and to make the most of whatever precious moments we may have left.
There are (very roughly) seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains of sand on the earth. The most common constituent of sand is silica, the second is aragonite, which has been created, over the past half billion years, from the crushed remains of various forms of life, like coral and shellfish. Pick up some grains, put them under a microscope and whole worlds appear. In certain strands of Zen Buddhism, sages train themselves to be content to stare for many hours at only a few grains, a symbol of their capacity to pay due attention to the neglected wonders of existence. We too should be content to look closely at grains in a spirit of modesty and humility – and acknowledge that we are, from a sufficient perspective, nothing more substantial than such grains and yet no less interesting or complex for that.