The True Meaning of Legacy

In A Sedentary View, Columns, Features by Gregory Banks

I felt something else as well–a sense of loss. But not the kind of loss one feels when you lose a close family member, or anyone or anything that you cherished for a long period of time.

This feeling was more like the one you feel when you look at old pictures and remember when you were young and free of the cares that maturity places upon your shoulders. It’s the kind of longing you get when you realize how many years of your life has gone, and how many changes it has brought with it.

And then I began to wonder about the hole that the passing of such prominent people as Mrs. King leave behind, the void that an extraordinary person creates, and the fears of what will become of who are now left behind.

And to top it all off, it takes no time for the negativity to begin, when the wolves creep out of the shadows to tear away at the legacy that they envied or vainly strove to build for themselves.

Even the mere wake of the one who has passed on still leaves us humbled, another sign of how mighty the legacy of one who’s achieved true greatness can be.

I’ve already heard of at least one reporter that has said things about the late Mrs. King that seem a veiled attempt to throw aspersions upon this woman’s legacy. I’m not saying that it was deliberate, but I find it funny how easy it is for people to throw dirt upon a person once that person is gone.

Also how often we fail to give honor and love to those who are most precious to us while they are alive and well and able to reap the full rewards of their years of helping others.

What we never seem to understand is that greatness is not about perfection. It’s not an acknowledgement or claim that one is above the average human.

Greatness is simply the recognition of someone who has accomplished many wonderful things despite the inherent flaws that all we humans share.

To point out a person’s flaws, to me anyway, is like saying that such and such beauty queen won a pageant despite the huge wart on her nose. To me this means that her external beauty was so great that it outshone even the most obvious of flaws. That, I think, is real sign of greatness.

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit this, and I don’t know if it’s a form of egotism or selfishness, but I often feel that my passion to become a successful writer is at least partially driven by the desire to leave behind a legacy that will far outlast my own mortal life.

Although I consider myself none of the above things, I’d be lying to both you and myself if I didn’t admit this. I, on the other hand, feel that I desperately want to be a success because with success comes some manner of wealth and influence. And in this society, only those with such social and economic leverage can bring about changes on a grander scale.

These are the people who truly can make the lives of the poor and disadvantaged (a word I hate because it makes those who are socially / economically / culturally discriminated against sound as if their low status is due to their own failings) better.

But deep down at the core of my being, where my deepest passions and desires dwell, I know there lurks the desire to be loved and revered by the masses, to have praise heaped upon me for the works I’ve created, for the legacy of greatness I’ve left behind.

To be memorialized, warts and all, and to be thought even better of because of the way I overcame them. I don’t know if such feelings are good or bad. I don’t know if they are the sort of motivations that poison the mind and soul. But I do believe that such feelings are merely another aspect, for better or worse, of being human.

I wonder if people like Mrs. King ever thought of such things, and wonder if she would even care whether people remembered her or not? I find it hard to believe that any person wouldn’t at least consider these things from time to time.

But in the end a legacy is just the result of a life well lived, a lifetime which produced many positive things. It’s not about claiming to being superhuman, or looking down upon others who are less skilled, privileged, and or fortunate than we are. It’s just a matter of striving to be the best human that each of us can be.

After that, our legacies will grow and prosper all on their own.