In this week’s Let’s Blog Off we are asked to explain what a Legacy is. At the risk of sounding sexist I will say that the sheer idea of creating a legacy has to be one of the most testosterone ridden, male concepts this side of women’s lib. Rarely, if ever do we hear women talking about leaving a legacy of any kind and when it comes to legacy and the male interpretation of it we have only to look at Mr. Trump, cameo extraordinaire, who’s idea of legacy is prominently displayed or planned in every major city in the world and may be just a tad, dare I say it, phallic in it’s presentation. So as a woman I will attempt to understand the idea of setting out to create a legacy as opposed to building one simply by being who we are.
I do understand the general concept of concern that lies behind a legacy. We try to leave something for those who follow to remember us by because it’s hard for us, no matter where we stand spiritually I think, to assume that all we do will be gone when we go. A legacy does not have to be focused on one individual, it can be pursued by a group, a community, a country or even the whole of our human race and it represents the ultimate weapon against or at least a desperate attempt to fight our own, unavoidable mortality. But is it really a Legacy we build when we must build the next tallest building in the world? What is the statement here? We were this great? We had this much technology at our disposal and this much architectural knowledge? What will the descendants of the people who designed and built the Burj Khalifa think? Will they be in awe of the accomplishment or will they question it’s necessity or lack of view for that matter? Will these descendants live in a society that can no longer relate to bigger is better? Will they live in a world that has finally become more sensible economically and environmentally? Is it possible that the message we try to send with this and other accomplishments will backfire if, in fact, it does survive long enough to remain a lasting beacon of today’s society?
A number of years ago I had begun reading a series of books by Edward Rutherfurd, among them Sarum, Russka, The Forest and London. The writing is nice enough and palatable, giving the reader an at-a-glance history of the respective part of the world which depicts the lives of two or three intermingled family trees over hundreds of years set loosely into a backdrop of actual historical events. Light fare to provide just enough knowledge of history to make me very dangerous in political discussions but an ace in Trivial Pursuit. But the concept that was buried in these stories caught my attention and never let me go. The constant attempt of the men in all of these stories to provide an existence or even wealth for their families and to build businesses that sometimes succeeded and other times failed. Businesses and livelihoods that could be passed on to a son and his sons after him and that were occasionally maintained but most often squandered or lost or abandoned because they no longer made sense.
The family trees Rutherfurd used in his books were a wonderful reminder of how we want to be taken seriously in our lifetime and hope that people will remember or be reminded of who we were in decades or even centuries to come. But the cold hard truth is that with the exception of a very select few, we won’t be. Buildings can be torn down, books destroyed, maybe one day the Internet will no longer be a viable communication platform and all the hours we’ve spent as bloggers pouring our thoughts into conversations and monologs will have been for naught. Or maybe not for naught, but maybe they were only meant for this moment, for this lifetime, to inspire a select few to think or dream or laugh.
So maybe legacies happen in all we do, all the time, even without trying. Through the values we teach our children, the love we bring to and find in our lovers and the smile we bring to someone’s lips.
Maybe that’s all we can hope for and maybe that’s good enough.
Please follow the Let’s Blog Off trail when you have a chance to hear more thoughts on this topic.
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