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?