We have an innate desire to be remembered and to leave a legacy. The things we do to have our existence be marked. The need to be continued to be thought of even if we aren’t around to do so directly. Whether it’s in secondary school, carving your name into the playground bench reading ‘Maddie waz here’ or leaving something behind at your workplace so that whenever people do see it, they think of you and your legacy. To plant something for an infinite amount of time which represents you. The whole – “this is your song” is synonymous for “Remember me when you listen to this”.
With maturity comes the need for a legacy
I am starting to understand the compulsion with age – wanting to leave your mark. I mean we want to be missed, don’t we? When we leave a job, we don’t like knowing that come Monday. Everyone else will be waking up just the same, working just the same and leaving work – just the same. That your absence doesn’t really cause a destruction in whatever you leave behind. It will continue to work as it should – smoothly.
Only the other day did I run into my old lecturer in my beloved University campus. The first few seconds I could tell she didn’t recognise me. I was getting ready to backtrack at full speed and pretend I approached her by accident until I saw her expression change as it clicked. After the confusion, however, she remembered the smallest of details and interactions we had that I no longer remember. I felt a little relieved and very humbled. It was a switch that needed turning on but when it’s on, the light shone pretty brightly.
I wonder where the need for a legacy comes from. Is it the subconscious realisation of the ever-hovering guarantee of death? The understanding that if we didn’t make a mark here, For all the months we spent here, even in death, we won’t create. It makes our remaining days truly finite.
It’s a lonely feeling. Or is it something lesser, like our need to be recognised, or famous or some kind of connection to our vanity? I mean it extends to the random text you get from a friend you haven’t spoken to since school and them having thought of you, and felt enough for you to get in touch and let you know. Something about you spurned them to proactively chase your existence.
It can even be explained by ancestry – our innate need to pass on our genes, something of ourselves. I mean a shiny statue of yourself can never compare to a walking, talking, breathing human that shares half your DNA. Can it be reduced as simply an extension of maintaining our gene pool?
Even as a society, we place significance on being remembered after death. Singers do well in this – their music may be timeless, we think of them every single time we hear the song. I used to find Amy Winehouse’s song ‘Rehab’ funny which of course did make use of dark humour, now – it’s just depressing. But without fail, I don’t think of how she lived, her hard-acquired legacy but how she died – a tragedy in itself. I wouldn’t want people to remember me like that, I wouldn’t want the circumstances of my death to be so overbearing that it outshines my living accomplishments, connections, and impact. Reduced to a tragedy and an oversight of the years you actually spent living.
Thought Leaders leave a legacy
Think academics – let’s go with Philosophy. If you do it well, say, Plato, Socrates, Nietzsche etc – those philosophers never did a Lenin. They never went out there and acted and shifted governments. Never physically recreating a standard structure. They just thought, wondered and decided and thus put it into writing (with the exception of Socrates – lazy bugger). Then put into writing, it was enough for us to refer to them constantly as fundamentals and ‘fathers’ when approaching their field of study. They were thought leaders, that’s all they were and by extension, writers. Why do you write? To make an impact, right? Imagine someone bookmarks a post of yours – to read regularly. That’s incredible, right? Someone you don’t know shares your link not because you asked them to but because your words made an impact. They want someone else to be impacted in the same way.
What do you want to be remembered for? Or do you think that you live while you’re alive and once you hit the ground, everything after the fact is irrelevant? You won’t be around to reap the benefits after all – a Shakespearian life?