Memento Mori

Time to pause and reflect on mortality and how I’m living my life.

A community I’m part of has been rocked these past couple of weeks by the death of a man who had so much more living to do. Dai Barnes was, among other things, a teacher, co-host of the Today in Digital Education (TiDE) podcast with Doug Belshaw, and he believed that “life is better without shoes“.

I never met Dai in person, though felt I’d got to know him through the stories he shared on TiDE and I looked forward to spending a couple of hours in his and Doug’s company every few weeks. This short snippet from TiDE 117 will give you an insight into the kind of teacher, storyteller and joker he was.

Thinking about what I’ve learned of how Dai approached life from the tributes that have been shared, I believe he still has some lessons to share. Not least in the lasting impact we can have on the people we meet both in person and online.

I was shocked by Dai’s death and this has prompted me to pause and reflect on mortality and how I’m living my life.

I’ve always been a little dismissive of memento mori; the act of keeping to hand a reminder that one day we will die. Reflecting on the shortness of life and how it could end any day has shifted my position on this somewhat.

This shift has also brought into focus the time wasted waiting for the right conditions to make a change, start something new or indeed to stop doing something. And I’m reminded of this quote from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus:

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself”

Many people interpret or reframe this in terms of our impact in the world by modifying the last phrase to read “the best of yourself”.

I’ve carried this forward to the thing I’ve been thinking about most – my contribution to the relationships and communities I’m part of. What I’ve learned from Dai and want to continue to live out can be summarised as follows:

  • be open and share everything you know
  • be humble and willing to learn from others
  • show a genuine interest in, and care for, everyone you meet
  • laugh with others and most importantly at yourself

Thank you for teaching me Dai, may you rest in peace.

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