I was thinking a LOT about legacy the last week or so...so much so that I even had a dream the other night that I was sitting in a room with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and (if I remember correctly) LL Cool J and counseling them on the subject, with a fourth rapper (Eric Wright? Maybe) being conferenced into the session via telephone.
Why those particular individuals I have no idea...the only rap album I've ever owned was Straight Outta Compton (back in the days of cassette tapes)...unless you count Ice T's Body Count (which I don't). Bizarre. Yet, in my dream I brought a tears to Dre's eyes when I started taking about his grandmother.
As I said, bizarre. And yet, the idea has been heavily on my mind. It started with the death of Christopher Tolkien last week and was perhaps driven further into my brain with the passing of B.J. "Big Fella" Johnson (you can read about him from his friends Dan and Paul). And to top it off, I was grabbing a bite at a local sandwich shop last week when I saw this old Brent Spiner scene playing on the TV (which I still remember from the handful of ST:TNG episodes I watched, back in the day).
[yes, I realize there was another rather celebrated individual who tragically died yesterday, but this post was planned long before that event. This is just the first chance I've had to blog]
The fact of the matter is, we all die eventually (of course) and very, very few of us will ever achieve the degree of fame and notoriety in our lives that we will be celebrated and remembered by the masses in our passing...and even those of us who DO are unlikely to be remembered for more than a handful of generations before leaving the collective memory. Even the most celebrated individual is likely to be forgotten by all but the most dedicated historian (of a particular sphere)...and even then, even then, we will mainly (only) be remembered for our works, not our personalities...not for "who we are" only for what we've done.
And for most of us, the ONLY thing that will be remembered (after our immediate friends and family have likewise followed us into the great beyond) is WHAT we have done, nothing more. Think of all the amazing inventions and innovations that have been created over the decades, and consider how little we know about their originators. Consider the piano...perhaps the most powerful musical instrument created prior to powered instruments...did you know that its invention is attributed to Bartolomeo Cristofori? I didn't...and I'd bet the majority of piano students have no knowledge of (or interest in) this information; suffice is to say the piano exists. Consider the skyscrapers that grace the skyline of any major metropolitan city, marvel at how many individuals it took to construct each...and realize that the names of those individual laborers will never even rate a footnote in the history of these edifices.
History does not remember US...it does not "judge" us. It only regards our works, the things that we create that may...or may not...have any lasting value. And what IS "lasting value" anyway? For most works, they serve only as stepping stones to later, greater innovations. Yes, someone started the industrial revolution by burning coal and heating water vapor....we've moved far beyond that now. Our creative works are built on the shoulders of others, and others will step upon us as well...IF (and only if) we are blessed with the creativity to create things that will inspire others.
This is what I've been thinking about for the last week or two. THIS. That accomplishment or recognition of accomplishment are small, perhaps even worthless, objectives to have. Accomplishment and accolades are not the same thing as creating a legacy. A legacy is something that will outlast our finite mortal existence...it is a seed that will take root and grow and have a life beyond ourselves. Children can be a legacy...but they, too, are simply finite, mortal vessels for the immortal soul. At best, I believe children can help nurture and grow and spread the legacy of their parents. And, of course, they can create their own legacies as well.
I think...I think (I'm not certain) that going forward, this is the attitude I want to cultivate in myself, the perspective with which I want to orient my mind. Am I building a legacy for myself? This is the question I want to ask. Not "am I accomplishing anything?" Not "am I receiving due recognition (fame or fortune)?" Not "will I be remembered for this after I'm gone"...because, of course, I most definitely WILL be forgotten in 10 or 20 or 50 or 500 years...as we will all be forgotten, eventually.
But am I creating a seed-worthy thing? Is this something that can grow and transform? That is what I mean. What am I bequeathing my children? And my children's children? Am I creating something that will be a stepping stone to something greater?
That's where my mind is at the moment. More on D&D in the next post (I hope).