A frequent and attentive prospect of that moment, which must put a period to all our schemes, and deprive us of all our acquisitions, is indeed of the utmost efficacy to the just and rational regulation of our lives; nor would ever any thing wicked, or often any thing absurd, be undertaken or prosecuted by him who should begin every day with a serious reflection that he is born to die.
Just over ten years ago, I reported that I had indeed been waking up each morning with a strong awareness of my own mortality. Those kinds of reflections tend to appear at more random intervals these days, though still regularly. (Thoughts of his own death/Like the distant roll/Of thunder at a picnic — Auden.) But I’m afraid I must stand as the living (for now) disproof of Johnson’s conjecture, for while I may have avoided outright wickedness, I have undertaken and prosecuted much absurdity since then. Like rock smashing scissors, folly easily beats memento mori.