Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Past, Present and Future



A friend of mine mailed the manuscript of her book to Oxford University Press just yesterday. She was so proud, she took a picture of it at the post office, wrapped and addressed, ready to become a part of history. She has been writing this book for years. It's one of those erudite academic books so far beyond my scope of understanding that, even though she has told me what it's about a few hundred times, I cannot retain it. I'm sure it must be great, though, otherwise Oxford U. would not have invited her to submit the full manuscript.

I mention my friend's book because I've been thinking about legacy, what do we leave behind after our brief stint here on earth in this precious existence? Some people have children, a fantastic legacy if you ask me. Others write books, paint, create works of dance or music, or leave behind trusts - libraries and such - or foundations full of money so that others can create legacies. I know of one person whose wish is to leave nothing behind, absolutely nothing, which is in itself a fabulous (if conceptual) legacy, considering how many billions of us there are on the planet at this moment in time.

One of the very cool things my friend said yesterday is that she considers her book part of a tapestry that stretches backwards in time as well as forwards. After all, she is building on the research and ideas of those who laid the framework for her area of study. It got me to thinking that all legacies stretch both forwards and backwards in time. Who painted the first painting? When you think about it, there's no such thing as the first book, first painting, first dance. All these forms emerged, not from individuals, but from interactions within the human community over long periods of time. There truly is nothing new under the sun.

So, legacy, then, is a process of weaving oneself into the tapestry of our human history, rather than leaving behind a gift for those who come after us.

I love thinking about it that way. Very cool, don't you think?

36 comments:

Lisa said...

yes, very cool- thanks for sharing x

Butternut Squash said...

Hi Reya,

I'm imagining you and I as the two pine cones lying on our backs on the side walk looking up at the sky and wondering where we fit into the tapestry.

lacochran said...

In Yentl, when she first enters the library in the Yeshiva and sees all the books--those wonderful books, she sings...

"Like a link in a chain from the past to the future
That joins me with the children yet to be
I can now be a part of the ongoing stream
That has always been a part of me"

Cheesy but true.

Joanne said...

I like that, yes. As a writer, it makes me think of the idea that there are no new stories, only the retelling of the same stories over and again, in different ways. I guess we are weaving modern day into each retelling, adding what we've learned, our generation's insight, threads of new color in the one tapestry.

Reya Mellicker said...

Butternut - love this image!

Reya Mellicker said...

One of my many theories is that all stories come from the landscape, sky and weather in the places where the stories were first told.

Dale Rogers said...

Over a year me and my children left behind something for the future so to speak. I have three kids and each one of them collected different what knots of thier stuff and placed it in a box. We then burried it in the back yard. We no longer live in that house and from what I understand it is being sold. So maybe one day another kid will dig it up or some dog. Lol.

Evening Light Writer said...

I really enjoyed your post this morning, it made me think of the first lines of "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman:

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

Angela said...

Reya, I will be wondering about this thought. What will I leave behind? What HAVE the ones before me left behind? Some stories they told me and which I`m telling on? Yes, some threads in the tapestry... cool. Thanks!

Cyndy said...

I love your phrase "weaving oneself into the tapestry of our human history" and the visual of the pine cones below is a great representation of the past, present, and future, if you look at it from right to left. There's the shadow(past), the pinecone itself(present), and the light shining on it(future).

Reya Mellicker said...

Cyndy? How cool!

sciencegirl said...

Wonderful insights, Reya, and they really hit home today.
First I'm reminded of that day years ago when I did the same the day my dissertation was ready for filing. Some people thought it was strange, but none of them were graduating that week.
And second, today I'm continuing that reach into the future with my own graduate student defending her dissertation tomorrow.
Thanks for sharing; it's perfect.

willow said...

I like to think of all my wonderful and inspiring blog friends as beautiful threads in my personal tapestry. Lovely post, Reya.

deborah said...

way cool
love you so much

e said...

Kudos to your friend for completing the book. It my well change the thinking and lives of those who read it and those whose lives they touch in turn.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Reya, yes I love your interpretation of legacy... that we are all interwoven into the human race. It takes all of us from the lofty, to the mediocre, to the menial thinker to make up this thing we call humanity. So yes, it is cool to be part of the tapestry of life.

Reya Mellicker said...

I agree with you Lizzy/Cheryl. The world needs all of us.

Amy said...

Beautiful!

A couple of poems I've written use the idea of thread as an analogy for what binds us all together. It's just such a lovely concept.

Thank you for your continued insight and perspective. You bring a smile to my face.

The Family Julz said...

Absolutely very, very cool! I considered the same thing as Cyndy... and Reya, you're wonderful, so glad you're out there capturing the tapestry's weaving for us all.

Gary said...

This is a great perspective. I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine about what I hope to 'leave behind' or contribute. He said it seems selish to think of being remembered and I couldn't articulate what I meant. Here, you have. Adding to the tapestry. I like that. That's what I want to do.

How exciting about the book and Oxford. Wow. Congratulations to your friend.

Adrianne said...

This is a brilliant post.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thank you, my Adrianne!

Just now I was thinking that a legacy is not only a gift for those who come after, it is an offering to the ancestors who came before.

Carolyn said...

Reya,
We all are one, part of the same. I love the image of being a part of a big tapestry. Thank you for sharing this post.
I love the pine cones on brick.
Smiles:)

Michelle Stiles said...

Great photos.
As always... so insightful.
It takes each one of us to create a full and robust tapestry.

Delwyn said...

...and we can weave the warp and weft with our actions our emotions our connections, as well as our DNA and then there are the seeds we sow in the minds and souls of others that add another hue to the tapestry.

lilmarm said...

I am so happy for your friend, it gives me hope because Dorrance Publishing had contacted me a couple of weeks ago about a book Iam trying to Publish. It is a workbook for sexually assaulted and abuse victims, and more. I am working on some of the stories and pictures (my illustrations) on my blogspot. I am so new to this.

Thinking of a tapestry as friends included,with all the beautiful shapes and colors you can arrange, is like an open invitation for everyone. Very Beautiful, Reya

subtorp77 said...

Not like the Fates weaving the Tapestry of Life. This sounds different. More conclusional in that your friend is BECOMING a part of history. A more permanent record. And those things written tend to stand the test of time. To reach across the generations. What better legacy can one have but to share one's knowledge? kudos to your friend, Reya. And to your-self for passing this along.

Ronda Laveen said...

There are many concepts and comments in this post that resonate in me. I think the two most striking are:

Your comment about the stories of the tapestry coming from the landscape, sky and weather in the places they were first told.

The second was Evening Light Writer's Walt Whitman quote...For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

Lots to think about here, TY

e said...

Reya,

You're welcome, regarding the sharing of the lushness of my trees! Did you know we share a friend in the northeast???

Lover of Life said...

Very cool.

tam said...

This is very much how an African cosmology is conceived, as I understand it - our offerings are indeed both for those who went before and those who are still to come. We are part of an unbroken chain of existence. its a much more comforting way of being than the one of individual heroism through deeds.

Last night I was watching a documentary about the manuscripts of Timbuktu (A South Africa Mali initiative to preserve those beautiful old texts). Fragile handcopied manuscripts that were handed down lineages - and this is what enabled them to survive for so long. People were much less likely to sell them because they represented family wisdom and learning passed down the ages. If the manuscripts were lost or damaged it means cutting yourself off from that ancient source of knowledge. Very cool.

Moonroot said...

Love this - deeply cool!

Sarah Laurence said...

Congratulations to your friend! That moment is huge. I’ve heard that academic publishing, never bent on making big bucks, is doing fine through this economic down turn.

I have a soft spot for Oxford University Press after living in their neighborhood last year. Someone from OUP reads my blog monthly and many from the university.

It’s fun how blogs keep you connected even after moving on. As for making a mark in history, that would be a blog. Your legacy is here – the road continues.

Reya Mellicker said...

From my old friend Linda:

How interesting and synchronistic -- I'm currently writing an article about Legacy Letters, documents you
write for your family that explain your values and beliefs, and can be passed down from generation to generation. Loved your line: ...legacy...is a process of weaving oneself into the tapestry of our human history, rather than leaving behind a gift for those who come after us." I would disagree only slightly: When you give of yourself, that IS the true gift. I think it's important to make the
distinction between material goods, like jewelry and money and artwork, and "spiritual" or heartfelt goods.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

a wonderful post (but of course they all are!)

I especially like this you wrote:

legacy... is a process of weaving oneself into the tapestry of our human history, rather than leaving behind a gift for those who come after us.

wise and wonderful words. thank you.

tangobaby said...

That is very cool. I am happy for her friend. I think we all want to leave some sort of legacy, somehow.

Lovely post.