Memento Mori: On the End of Unus Annus

Memento Mori. When I took Latin in high school, that was just one of the many insignificant phrases scribbled tiredly on the white board. Remember death was scribbled underneath, then crossed out; the evils of Google Translate were discussed. Finally, for a brief moment, and for that one brief moment alone, we considered its meaning: remember you must die

 

Looking back, the meaning stands out to me as incredibly profound, but it wasn't so at the time. The words were spilled out onto the board and then sopped up so quickly, so haphazardly, that it seemed like someone had spilled soda rather than pulled back the curtains to the truth. I would only consider it insofar as needed for a test, and even then, its existence was utterly insignificant.

 

On November 15th, 2019, that was set to change.

 

On that day, two popular gaming YouTubers named Ethan Nestor and Mark Fishbach (CrankGamePlays and Markiplier, respectively) came together and launched a YouTube channel titled Unus Annus, another Latin phrase meaning one year. It was in that first mysterious video that they stated their intent, standing in their black and white suits, right in front of that black and white spiral. “What would you do if you only had one year?” they asked. “What would you do if you knew how much time you had left?” The channel, as the title suggested, would only be around for one year. They would post one video every day, right up until they reached 365—then, everything would be deleted. Their “calling card,” of sorts, was Memento Mori. Remember Death. Remember you must die.

 

But while their first video was serious, a grim warning of what was to come, the rest was far from it. In fact, they did many hilariously questionable and weird things — and I mean many. Their content was almost a creative masterpiece, a bucket list of completely random ideas, scenarios, and projects that was executed hilariously and with the least grace possible. The duo did whatever they wanted, whatever was fun and new for them, from learning aerial silks with a professional to cooking with… cooking utensils, and encouraged (or absolutely did not encourage, depending on the video) others do the same. 

 

They brought up the passing of time almost every day, but it quickly became a joke to the audience, even as we watched the 365 day timer count down the remaining time at the beginning and end of every video. It was entertainment, plain and simple, that would come to fill our empty spaces every single day without fail. We had forgotten it had to die. No, we couldn’t believe it could die. It was a joke, a stone-faced lie. The audience pushed back with all their might — stop the clock became their battle cry, a vain attempt to beg the creators to fight the inevitable. 

 

Nonetheless, the end came fast. 

 

As I write this, yesterday marked the official end of the channel. It went out with a twelve hour live stream, with the creators and the people who facilitated their journey reflecting on those times, re-watching and commenting on the videos while they were still around. But the second that 365 day countdown hit zero, visitors to the page only saw one thing: This channel is no longer available

 

You can’t watch those videos anywhere, especially not in their true, purest form, the way the creators intended. There are clip compilations, memes, and fan art, but those can’t come close to what was a whole year's journey. If you weren’t there, you will never know. Of course there are those who will cling to their personal archives, cling to their deep-seeded hatred of the very idea that something should end. But at the end of the day, that One Year is over, no matter what those archives say. So: what does all of it mean? Why did they do it? Why does it matter? Why put so much effort into something if it’s going to disappear?

 

There are those who will never understand the answer, who will think what they did was stupid and a waste of time. But the answer is this: they were showing us life, what a lifespan was in the simultaneously short and long period of a year. They showed us how a year caused growth and change inside and out. With living comes time, a limited, finite resource we shouldn't waste on things we don’t care about, wasted because we’re afraid to go off the “proper” path. It’s not about filling every moment, not about planning meticulously for the future- after all, we only get now. It’s about enjoying what we do, no matter when we do it, while it’s there, even if it’s something considered “unimportant,” “ridiculous,” “stupid,” or “a waste.” Even during a pandemic, when the pair was separated, they never stopped coming up with and sharing enjoyable daily videos. Can you put a day of life on hold for another time? No. Time doesn’t wait for you to begin — it goes, and you go with it. Before you know it, the clock has ticked down to the final seconds. You can’t archive a life.

 

Memento Mori may have been insignificant to me in high school, but it seems to me now more like a universe than just any spilled soda. I have seen death, even if it was something as small as one of millions of channels on YouTube. On the final live stream, Ethan said something like this: Memento Mori may mean “remember that you will die,” but it also means that because of that fact, you must remember to live. So, don’t hesitate to do so. Unus Annus may be gone, whether that matters to you or not, but you aren’t. There are so many things you can do or create, or not do or not create, and that is something up to you. A life not perfect, not the most successful, not the best by any means, just the best for you.

 

As Mark and Ethan said at the channel’s final seconds:

Memento mori. 

Unus. Annus.

 

Mark’s Post Mortem of the channel: https://youtu.be/jm7ZAMAsPxI

Ethan’s Post Mortem of the channel: https://youtu.be/U8bbwufCQk4