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Leaving a Legacy

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Erik Fitzpatrick/Flickr

Harrison Phipps
 Opinions Editor

What is your legacy?

What will your legacy be?

Many are obsessed with trying to leave some form of impact on the world. Will we all be remembered equally, or will there be a select few whom history sets its eyes on?

The brutal fact of the matter is that these words may very well be forgotten. It could be today, tomorrow, in a few years or a few millennia.

It is an unfortunate business, but it remains a fact of life that some things are going to be forgotten. We’re lucky to get 80 years on this earth, and afterwards we fall and our bodies rot in the ground — my my, this gets cheerier.

The only thing that we can hope to do to leave an impact is to affect other people. We are, after all, inherently social creatures. I fear a day when there are no people to remember anything.

Remembrance is something that people do, so it stands that one needs to affect those who are to do the remembering. There are many ways for people to remember things, most of which require some sort of reminder. People can be reminded by almost anything, so leaving some sort of memory won’t be hard.

By looking at the sheer number of people that inhabit the earth, it seems safe to say that procreation is a great way of leaving an impact. From a very pragmatic standpoint, children carry on names, ideas and stories from their parents and even their parents’ very likeness, making them effective at leaving a memory of the parents they’ll hopefully outlive.

Yet kids don’t always reflect on their parents as best they could, so one might try to look elsewhere for leaving a purer sort of legacy. Instead of passing on their genetic material, they might want to pass on their intellectual material. This comes with a requirement of communication of some sort. Herein lies the problem.

An idea is absolutely meaningless if it’s not communicated. At that point, it dies with you, and, however brilliant it may be, the idea will then wait for someone else — perhaps many years down the line — to think the same thought. An idea can’t be used if it’s gone; so, an idea has to be spread to leave an impact.

We might wish to leave that idea amongst many people to take and run with to do what they please, or we could always just do it. The lofty ideas passed down through millennia of academia are pleasant, but if it can’t be applied in any way by anyone who learns it, then it might not be of much worth.

Ideas, and the people who have them, create a much greater impact if they are applied. While the internal combustion engine was a really good idea on paper, it was even better once it was actually built.

So, to every genius who thinks in complete abstraction almost entirely thinking for thought’s sake, it is my unfortunate declaration that if these thoughts are completely incapable of moving people in some manner or another, they may as well be in the head of a donkey.

This is not to attack a field like philosophy, but moreover an urging for those in the field to consider the implications of whatever epistemological, logical, metaphysical or aesthetic thought. That is, consider the ethics.

Ideas have consequences, and we need to consider the value and consequences of our ideas. Because the ideas of villains and dictators were not stopped, the lives of those who carried out their ideas had to be.

We have the power to change the future landscape, to leave a mark. Leave it, and own it. Do not sit and be complacent; the most dangerous person is the most content. If you are under the impression that this earth is all that it was ever meant to be here and now, you are piteously mistaken.

Look and see the world with fresh eyes. There is much more that should be done. We are not who we could be; people starve, suffer and die day by day, not due to any one individual, but due to the collective passivity of the masses.

Change, however, starts at an individual level. Think. Have ideas. Do something with your ideas. Leave your mark and be remembered. It can be good, or it can be bad.

So, what will your legacy be?

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