When a Playboy interviewer asked Woody Allen if he wanted to live on in the hearts of his fans through his work, Allen replied: "I'd rather live on in my apartment." Clever and witty, for sure, but it’s not going to happen.
Despite our most fervent intentions, our mortality eventually catches up to us, leaving our legacies totally in control of those who outlast and follow us. Any input we wish to have on our legacy has to be done from this side of our final curtain.
I was reminded of this in a post on the Smart Women’s Blog by a videographer friend, Steve Pender. Steve and I saw a presentation by University of Colorado at Denver history professor James Walsh in Nashville a couple of years ago. I wrote about it then, Steve wrote about it recently, passing on an African proverb about the two stages of dying that Walsh shared that day:
“The first stage is sasha. Sasha are people who have passed away physically – but the living still remember them and tell their stories. So the sasha are not yet dead. The second stage is zamani. Zamani are people who have also passed away physically. However, the living no longer remember them, nor do they tell their stories. Zamani are truly dead.”
Would you rather be a Sasha or a Zamani?
Some people wrap their legacy in material things, accumulating whatever they can with the intent of passing it on to their children. Yet financial advisors say that material wealth often is entirely gone within two generations. Research shows that the importance of material wealth is probably overblown anyway.
In a study by life insurance company Allianz of 1,300 “Baby Boomers” and their parents, 77 percent of both generations said the most important inheritance they could pass on would be values and lessons about life.
Since we are all just one generation away from not knowing anything about our family history and their values, it’s our duty to preserve our real legacies while we still can.
Writing prompt of the day: What’s the single most important thing you want to be remembered for? What are you doing to ensure that your descendants know about it?
Flickr photo courtesy of RocketRaccoon.