Memento mori

Memento mori

“Obsolescence”. Any idea what this means? Most people don’t… despite the fact that it is a very common phenomenon in our daily lives. So what is it??


Is it a medical condition, something scary, weird behaviour? Does it have to do with health, with technology or with economics? Do we need to worry about it? Does it affect our wellbeing? Mentally, physically, morally? Is it bad for our environment, for nature, for other living beings?


… Probably yes to all the above… we should definitely be aware of it!


The Oxford dictionary describes “obsolescence” as follows:


“The process of becoming obsolete or outdated and no longer used”

“computers are infamous for their rapid obsolescence”

“gunpowder brought about the obsolescence of many weapons


The Cambridge dictionary says that “obsolescent” is:


“going out of use”.



So far so good. Not so much to worry about as it is normal that stuff goes out of use. Because things brake and need replacement after a certain period, for example. Or because of improvements and innovations. It is the normal (product) life cycle. Everything (and everybody) has its (her/ his) time!


Time and passing are intriguing concepts, unavoidable facts in life.


Traditionally, in art, the theme of “vanitas vanitatum” (all is vanity) is widespread; this is representing “the passing things of this world”. It relates to the “memento mori”-attitude which means so much as “be mindful of death”. Interesting is that thinking about “the end”, realising impermanence, generally brings us back to core values.


I recently went to a book presentation “Über den Tod und das gute Leben” which translates in English “About death and the good life”. The author, an actor and “Grabredner” (“grave speaker”), shared his insights. We “humans” may be the only living beings who are consciously aware of the fact that things come to an end. And we humans are also aware of our own mortality. But at the same time, we don’t fully get the concept. Death is a very abstract concept to us. Automatically, when speaking about death, we actually do speak about “the good life”.


The views on “good life” in relation to death are generally quality time with family and friends, being true to yourself, learn and teach, be meaningful, be helpful. In fact and in summary: it is all and foremost about immaterial values.


Nevertheless, in daily life, a lot of people are carried away by material things. By consumption, by possession. By earning money and by collecting stuff. Thinking this will bring satisfaction, status or security. Shopping is a “hobby”?! Fashion is fast. Technologies move quickly. Marketing is a steamy operation. Are goods good for us? Are consumer needs true or twisted? Are innovations true or twisted? (also referring to this subject in a previous blog about our humans’ “limited minds“…)


These last questions bring us back to the subject of “obsolescence”. Or to be more precise: planned obsolescence…


To be continued