Thursday, 3 September 2009

Thoughts of posterity

Some people as they get older start thinking about "leaving something for posterity", something of permanent benefit to others after they've died. They don't want to just leave future generations to get on with it.

It's a very laudable aim, better than simply enjoying your life and then clocking off, and who cares what comes next? The desire to add something to the world rather than leaving it the way it is, or worse, is admirable.

The result is new charities, new museums, major inventions and wonderful pieces of literature that leave the world a richer and more fulfilling place. So many everyday experiences that we take for granted are owed to such benefactors.

I'd like to pass something on in the same generous way, but of course we don't all have the skills or the cash to do so. We mostly content ourselves with trying to improve the life we're living and having some fun on the way. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately some people's idea of leaving something for posterity is not quite so positive. All those armies and guerilla fighters who believe that years of carnage and violence will lead to a bright new era are in general sadly mistaken. What they usually leave behind after their exertions are shattered societies.

Neither does leaving something for posterity mean all that worthless junk that politicians and VIPs like to dump on us - pointless memorials, plaques, statues and monuments that do nothing for anyone but simply rust and rot.

Of course the best thing to leave the next generation is the knowledge and wisdom that will help them too to improve the world. Who knows, I might be doing a bit of that.

Pic: The Peggy Guggenheim Museum of Art in Venice, opened in 1951

21 comments:

Aidan said...

Lovely post Nick. Actually I was thinking about this today, wondering what would happen to my password-protected digital legacy if I were to move on to the next life all of a sudden. With Google caching I reckon that everything is remembered, whether people will read our blog posts in one hundred years is another question.

Nick said...

Aidan - I was thinking something similar, that one very tangible legacy will be 2½ years of blogging, for what it's worth. It would certainly leave a lot for Jenny to remember me by.

Rummuser said...

I am not worried about password protected digital world as my son and heir knows all of them. I also realize that with my son, the line from my side ends as it is unlikely that Ranjan will father any offspring. What is mine will be his when I am gone. What other legacy can I leave for him other than the memories that he will carry of his parents?

Wisewebwoman said...

Writing, memories of shared happiness, creative projects, humour, service to others when able, and passwords are accessible to online commentaries...
Good post, Nick.
XO
WWW

Grannymar said...

My legacy to this world is Elly! She knows all my passwords and pins.... and where the needles are! ;)

There was a time when Charities benefited greatly from legacies, alas these have dropped over recent years.

Leah said...

Oh goodness, this one has me thinking about something I try not to think about...I guess some part of me truly believes I'm immortal...oh dear...

I'm off to write my passwords down...

But seriously. I've got to go think about this post.

Nick said...

Ramana - I'm sure there are plenty of things you can pass on besides memories. All the things Wise Web Woman mentions in fact.

www - All excellent characteristics that should be cultivated in the young. And of course sensitivity to other people's feelings and needs.

Grannymar - Indeed, charity income has dropped substantially, which is bad news for those who rely on them. And me too since I want a job in one!

Leah - I'm all too aware I'm not immortal, in fact I've been aware of that from a very young age. Which is why it would be good to pass on some social asset. Do come back when you've had a good think!

Hullaballoo said...

I want to leave something behind that makes the world a better place, it just came to me last week. I haven't thought of what yet, but hopefully I still have time to think something up.

Nick said...

Hulla - Well, you've got plenty of time to think of something, unlike me! Perhaps you could start a new therapy centre? Or a school of belly dancing?

Cinnamon said...

Interesting thoughts here. Collectively we have not done a good job in terms of the environmental disasters we are leaving as legacies to our future generations. I think it may be too late to put it right.

I have never thought about leaving a personal legacy.

Nick said...

Cinnamon - Yes, I was thinking about the environment, but I guess that's more about changing our everyday habits than leaving some kind of legacy. We could all leave solar panels on our houses, but they're still pretty expensive.

Quickroute said...

You stole my thunder - your blog should serve as a sufficient record of who you were and what you were about - God I'm speaking about you in past tense already - ooops!

Nick said...

Quicky - I died six months ago, didn't you hear? Jenny is gradually releasing my stockpile of posts.

Leah said...

LOL re: your last comment...

I can only think of personal rather than general legacies for myself--like my little girl, although I hate to put so much pressure on her!

Nick said...

Leah - Well, bringing up a child to be a mature, intelligent, compassionate adult would be a pretty good legacy to leave behind you. And maybe one day an accomplished cellist, who knows?

Brighid said...

Sorry to hear of your passing. Jenny is doing such a great job I wasn't aware of your demise.
Material things I've few to leave. But wonderful children and gradchildren, now that I've been doing.

Nick said...

Brighid - She's doing a grand job down there on planet earth. Hopefully your children and grandchildren will add something distinctive to this weird old world.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm sure you are. As for me, I leave my children. I have always wanted to leave works of art but it occurs to me that they are my artworks.

Nick said...

Heart - Several of you have said your children will be your legacy. You're obviously confident they're a credit to you and will make a very positive contribution to whatever community they find themselves in.

Liz said...

We leave our blogs, nick, and in my case, that is wisdom of the greatest order!

Nick said...

Liz - It's wonderful that we bloggers have such a huge personal archive to pass on if we die. Only someone who keeps a handwritten diary would pass on as much. Jenny actually has both a blog and a diary!