Confession: I’ve never been Black Friday shopping. Well, once a couple years ago I made a Black Friday purchase online from Best Buy’s website. But technically speaking, I’ve never stood in those long lines, camped out overnight at a retailer’s entrance, or been a part of one of those stampedes rushing in to grab a Tickle-Me-Elmo or Xbox 360. 

I’m not trying to throw shade either because I don’t view myself as morally superior to those that enjoy Black Friday shopping. In fact, their commitment to shrewd bargain-hunting and early-preparedness puts to shame my compulsive procrastination and thrill for last-minute-desperation-shopping.  

My thoughts on Black Friday 2020 arise in the middle of a global pandemic, a contentious presidential election, and living in a more polarized society than I can recall in my lifetime. I have close friends and family who love Black Friday shopping, so I hope they don’t take this as a personal aspersion. My thoughts are focused on a much larger question, and Black Friday serves as the perfect opportunity to chase it down.

Ever since I read (and reviewed) Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, I’ve looked into some of his other works. He’s a student of the Stoic Philosophers and is working hard to introduce that ancient wisdom to a modern audience. Going through some of his material on the stoics certain prominent themes continually pop up. One such theme is captured in the phrase Memento Mori, which essentially means “remember, you will die.” 

Why bring up such a morbid idea as we head into the holiday season? Because it’s true. 

For some—only God knows who—yesterday was their last Thanksgiving. In the coming weeks, some will celebrate their last Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Christmas and soon after will ring in their final New Year’s. 

Could be me. 

Could be you. 

And that’s the point. Nobody knows for sure. Memento Mori is a reminder that our days will eventually run out. Our time will expire. Our lives in this world will come to an end. The highs and the lows of our accumulated experiences pale in comparison to the idea of eternity. 

So whether 2020 has been your best year or your worst, Memento Mori. Whether you’ve felt the stinging pain of Covid-19 or think it’s a hoax, Memento Mori. Whether you’re making a lot of money or barely scraping by, Memento Mori. Whether your presidential candidate takes office in January or you feel he was robbed, Memento Mori

The purpose of this reminder is not meant to cast a shadow over your entire life with the looming dread of mortality—just the opposite. It is an invitation to break the spell of mindless existence. It’s an opportunity to refocus your ambitions and redirect your energies. You can’t control the circumstances of your life, but you can decide whether or not to let those circumstances control your life. 

Carve up and enjoy some turkey. Exhilarate yourself with the spoils of Black Friday. Go out or stay in. Laugh. Cheer. Cry. Hug. Make the most of all your minutes, whatever you do. Just don’t misspend your time. Squandered potential is a cosmic tragedy. Live your life. Live all of your life. Memento Mori.