A Lasting Legacy
published: (updated: )
by Harshvardhan J. Pandit
The fundamental crisis of a middle aged man upon seeing his hair turn white in the mirror of his bathroom is ultimately, “what is my legacy?”
This crisis turns into a full fledged cyclone as one approaches the old age, where the hairs have long fallen off the head and combing the remaining ones is difficult with a shaking hand. I’ve seen it, and read about it far too many times. Every time I saw or read about people getting worked up over their legacy, it always made me wonder, is legacy just a fear of the next person repeating the same mistakes, or also the hope that they turn out to do better in life. What then, I would always wonder, will be my lasting legacy?
Turning 25 years of age has not provided me with any of the promised wisdom achieved through ageing, and I’m always almost told that I have to wait a few more decades.Therefore, I’m currently ill-equipped to answer this question. But nonetheless, my spoilt mannerisms and stubborn psyche urge me to continue with the promise of finding great value in the answer. And so I must oblige, for without my rigid mannerisms and the fanatical mind, I would just be another good boy with his shoe laces tied.
It always makes me wonder why a legacy is associated with the end of a person’s life. A legacy is supposed to be the desire to change or continue the outcome of a significant portion of the past, and so, logic would dictate that the person would think about his legacy much before reaching his end. By knowing what legacy he may wish to leave behind, he would probably define what kind of a person he wants to be for the rest of his life. It’s like a marathon runner registering for a marathon a great many months later. What does he want his legacy to be? He wants the world to know him as the champion, as the person who won the race, for which, of course, he would have to indeed win the race. The marathon runner would then proceed to practice everyday to create that legacy in his desirable version of the future. Unless of course, one of my fundamental assumptions about the whole argument is wrong in its basis.
If people do not think about their legacy as they are living, then what do they think about when dreaming the future, and setting their goals. I think the answer is obvious enough to even a kid who is copying homework to avoid punishment from a ignorant teacher who thinks that education can be forced down their throats. People think about their own self, their entire version of the future revolves around the star of self. Their life, their health, their job, their family, their enjoyment. Where does legacy come into all of this? I’m back to line 1 of my question. What is a lasting legacy?
So far, we’ve established that people do not indeed think about their legacy until a significant time has passed in their lives. Which means they think about legacy after gaining some furtive experience which opens a wide window of wisdom into their corrupted heads and they need to kneel down towards the light to make amends. I haven’t yet seen the window, and so I think I am justified in trying to answer this question without any possible expectations of being correct from those who have.
I do not want to be written down in the pages of history textbooks, and I’m ok with not being remembered at all by the world at large. I do not want to be famous, much less popular. It merely means that I do not wish that to happen in my version of the future and therefore am free to not work to achieve that. If by some grave mistake of the roulette spinning with my life rolling around empty numbers, I manage to attain all these, that would be an a sweet fruits undeserved for my labor. No thank you, sir.
These days people talk about legacy in the context of the green and white coverings on a piece of rock that we happen to have evolved on and made the mistake of assuming we owe it no respect. Like a great rock falling from the sky into the water, rings of awareness are spreading wide around. Asking people what they want to leave behind is like asking do you want to care what people think about you after you die. As if worrying about what other people think when I am alive and living was not enough, now I have to go have headaches about what just might happen after I die. Swell. I want to change the world because I do not like it, because I want to change it, because I want to live in the changed world. There, I just admitted my sins, come hang me on a tree with a noose around my neck. But oh wait, what did you say? You couldn’t find a tree to hang me on, did you? There, you need to save a few trees as well, just so you could hang me then.
So, pretending to act like I do not have to concern myself with other people or things or beings, I may trudge upon my path with a pompous flare, but sooner or later, an opportunity would place itself around my feet and cause me to stumble and fall. And by the time I realize what had happened, a few others would have trodden quite casually over me, placing my face into the dirt until I could kiss the earth with the back of my tongue. Life is like that, it gives some really amazing experiences. I’ve often heard parents describe having a child as something that changed their life. Is it the responsibility of ensuring the toddler’s life goes along a more desirable path than their own that drives them towards their legacy? Or is it cliche deathbed scene, where a person sees their life flash before their eyes, wishing they could travel back in time and mess around to create paradoxes that would just loop endlessly like cycles of death and rebirth? Or could it be the old man, who, when he tumbles down clutching his heart, “life was beautiful”, or grabs a collar to squeak, “tell me it was worth it.” No one knows for sure.
I always remember the story of a young boy, which I freely admit, I have just made up as I write it here. A young boy was placed in a room with no doors and a window barred shut. He lived there until one day he pried open the window and stood in the light, even as it continued to burn and blind his eyes. The one image of the heaven outside was enough for him to remember even as he lived in darkness for the rest of eternity. As we are not privy to such privileged rooms, I feel we must end up imagining our own heaven before being consumed by darkness and tread along life. Passing on this image is our legacy.