The motto of the middle ages, meaning, as JustSomeGuy notes, "Remember you must die".

Life in the middle ages was based on the belief that the afterlife, meaning heaven or hell because of the dominant position of the roman catholic curch, was more important than life on earth.

This phrase later got substituted by "carpe diem" in the renaissance.

The X-files

Memento Mori
Episode: 4X15
First aired:2/09/97
Written by:Chris Carter, Frank Spotniz, John Shiban, and Vince Gilligan
Directed by: Rob Bowman

A very important episode in the X-files mythology.

Scully shows Mulder an MRI x-ray indicating a cancerous mass has been detected on the wall between her sinus and cerebrum. The tumor is inoperable and if it grows, the chance for survival is slim. Instead of requesting a leave of absence, Scully opts to follow another avenue of investigation: contacting a group of purported female abductees who experienced similar symptoms after having implants removed from the base of their necks.

The agents travel to the home of Betsy Hagopian in Allentown, Pennsylvania where Scully had met these women before. A realtor informs them that Hagopian (one of the female abductees) passed away two weeks earlier. While searching through Hagopian's house, the agents realize someone is downloading computer files via phone modem. The call is traced, and the agents apprehend Kurt Crawford, the man who downloaded the files. Crawford explains that he and Hagopian were both members of the same UFO network and downloaded Hagopian's files because the government is out to destroy them. Crawford also reveals that all of the women who claimed they were abducted by aliens died of similar tumors, with the exception of Penny Northern, who is now hospitalized and near death from cancer.

Scully visits Northern at the hospital, who reveals that Dr. Scanlon, who has been treating her cancer, may have isolated the cause. Seeing her future self in Penny's condition, Scully checks herself in and Dr. Scanlon begins treating her cancer. Meanwhile, Mulder and Crawford search through hard files in Hagopian's basement. They discover that all of the woman abductees, including Northern, were treated at the same fertility clinic in Pennsylvania. When Scully asks Mulder to bring her overnight bag to the hospital, Mulder leaves Crawford in the basement to attend to Scully. Later that evening, the Gray-Haired Man (the same man who killed X) shows up and kills Crawford, whose body melts into a pool of green liquid.

Meanwhile, Mulder breaks into a federally-subsidized fertility clinic where all the female UFO network memmbers were patients. Inside, he discovers Kurt Crawford (Mulder is unaware of the other Crawford's death). They access a computer terminal and download a directory containing Scully's name. Near the breaking point, Mulder demands that Skinner arrange a meeting with The Cigarette-Smoking Man. But Skinner refuses, insisting The Cigarette-Smoking Man deals only in lies. Nonetheless, Skinner secretly enlists The Cigarette-Smoking Man's help.

Mulder turns to the Lone Gunmen, who tell him that the fertility clinic's mainframe is housed in a high-security federal research facility. The foursome infiltrate the research facility, and once inside, Mulder realizes Dr. Scanlon is on staff. He instructs Byers to find Scully and stop her treatment immediately. As he continues through the building's corridors, Mulder encounters additional Crawfords and realizes Kurt is a clone. He finds several of them dressed as doctors inside an incubator room housing tanks containing human forms, including those of Samantha. One of the Kurts shows Mulder a cold storage room containing vials of human ova--including a vial with Scully's name on it. The eggs were harvested from women during their abduction, which were later used for reproduction. Mulder realizes the women are the Kurts' birth mothers and the clones are actually working to save their mothers' lives.

The Gray-Haired Man arrives at the clinic and traps Mulder between two security doors in a quarantine wing. The Gray-Haired Man opens fire, slowly cracking the bullet proof glass that stands between himself and his prey. Working feverishly, Frohike breaks a computer code from a remote location, allowing Mulder to open the outside door and run to safety.

When Mulder returns to the hospital, he finds Scully at Penny's bedside. Byers arrived in time to stop Scully's treatment, but Penny Northern had died and Dr. Scanlon was gone. Scully tells her partner she has decided to fight the disease and continue her work.


Important Quotes:
Scully (over voice) -- "For the first time I feel time like a heartbeat, the secnds pumping in my breast like a reckonging; the numinous mysteries that once seemed so distant and unreal threating clarity in the presence of a truth entertained not in youth, but only in its passage. I feel these words as if their meaning were weight being lifted from me. Knowing that you will read them and share my burden as I have come to trust no other. That you should know my heart, look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you is a comfort to me now as I feel the tethers loose and the prospects darken for the continuance of a journey that began not so long ago and which began again with a faith shaken and strengthened by your convictions if not for which I might never have been so strong now as I cross to face you and look at you incomplete, hoping that you will forgive me for not making the rest of the journey with you.

Mulder(giving Scully flowers) -- "Scully? I uh, I . . . stole these from some guy with a broken leg down the hall. He, uh, won't be able to catch me."

Mulder -- "Going through some of those hard files before stuff starts disappearing and call me an early bird but I think I found something."

Scully -- "I think we both know that . . . right now, the truth is in me. And that's where I need to pursue it, as soon as possible."

Mulder (to Skinner) -- "They've taken a turn. A pretty big U turn by the looks of it. This is a file directory from a federally operated fertility clinic. Agent Scully's name is on this file. Although I'm pretty sure, pretty damn sure she's never undergone treatment for infertility."

Mulder -- "pick out something black and sexy and prepare to do some funky poaching."

CSM -- "You think I'm the devil, Mr. Skinner?"

Scully (in her diary) -- "Mulder, I hope that in these terms you might know it and know me. And if the darkness should have swallowed me as you read this, you must never think there was the possibility of some secret intervention - something you might have done. And though we've traveled far together, this last distance must necessarily be traveled alone."


Back to The X-files: Season 4

Latin for "Remember that you must die." The skull on the poet's desk is the most well-known memento mori, though in medieval and Renaissance times it was common to wear jewelry with a skull and bones or some other reminder of mortality. For example, Mary Queen of Scots had a pendant watch shaped like a coffin.

When Caesar was at the height of his popularity and power, the legend is that someone whispered to him "Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal."

The memento mori is not only a reminder that God will someday judge you. It is a warning against hubris. The Elizabethan fashion to keep a skull on your writing desk served as a reminder of the futility of human endeavors, of life's brevity and uncertainty. Remember Hamlet's "Alas, poor Yorick." speech.

"I make as good use of it (Bardolph’s face) as many a man doth of a death’s head or a memento mori."
"Do not speak like a death’s-head, do not bid me remember mine end."
- both quotes from Shakespeare, Henry IV. Death's-head meant skull.

As tribbel puts it, carpe diem was something of a replacement for memento mori.

Me*men"to mo"ri (?). [L.]

Lit., remember to die, i.e., that you must die; a warning to be prepared for death; an object, as a death's-head or a personal ornament, usually emblematic, used as a reminder of death.

 

© Webster 1913

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