Death, they say strips us of all our identity. Not just death, but even that edgy moment which brings us closer to death reduces us to the feeling of nothingness. The experience makes us forget all our statuses – rich or poor, all our problems – grave or simple, all our relations – deep or fickle and surely all our feats – colossal or paltry. That’s when we hear people saying it in a reclusive voice of fright, “I had a near death experience.” The experience gets etched forever, if you are alive that is. It is hard to let go. But why? For it is that moment although we think we are trapped in fear, we are actually free. Free of all our inhibitions, our little beliefs and our hopeless foundations that have been so hard until now to construct meaning for ourselves. Yes, beliefs which bought meaning to our lives, we conveniently assumed to be the ultimate. The near-death experience reduces them to nothing but a false narrative that we humans have been chasing thoughtlessly.
Post such incidents we normally tend to go free willing in all our encounters with people and events. We grandly appease to ourselves, “I want to live every moment now on” or the favourite, “I shall not worry the daily little things, life is bigger than these trivialities”. In a way unconsciously, we relive the experience of death that introduces us to the nothingness. Nothing else matters than life itself, which we campaign for and brings meaning to death.
What after me?
Yet, between the countless explanations for one to fear their own death, the most prominent question invariably remains. What after me? Which leads to the question, hence what do I leave behind apart from the momentary mourning and annual rituals of remembrance that our society is so brilliantly tuned into? Or the simple, how will I be remembered? These questions therefore lead to some mind-boggling answers within humans. There is a rush, a rat-race, the power games and the birth of egos. These egos that lead to greed, want, authority, fame and prosperity. The ego then starts building a legacy for the generations to follow based on the mentioned attributes. The anxieties of building our legacy ranges from anywhere between waging wars, where the belief amongst the authority was to conquer the world, creating hordes of communes and societies or gatherings to establish an order or to implore ourselves into forms of slavery that we call as earning a living. The scale is huge and we have witnessed interesting human dramas and acts on this scale.
The perception of legacy amongst us humans are horrifyingly meaningless and have more often than not caused annihilation. The grand plans to create a legacy of extreme nationalism have given us the world wars, cold wars, inter and intra state tensions or stand-offs. To create a legacy of financial freedom we have had recessions or depressions and famines. To create a legacy of religious following we have hatred and one-upmanship to account for. If the message of all religions is to have peace, why are hostile paths chosen to achieve that peace? All this for the candy bar which was labelled happiness. How far have we come in that cause? How much did we create in this period or in the rituals of creating a legacy? Maybe, if the choice to build a legacy was beyond property, power and control we could have done better.
Shifting from a group to even individuals, what does it mean for me to leave or create a legacy for my kin or next generations. Shower them with assets, spoils of the riches and an enviable will? Or with the religious sermons differentiating humans and sacrificial orders that demean and go on to deplete the already sparse ecological resources. What would guarantee this would bring peace and calm or resourcefulness to my next in line. Would power, fame, property or religious believes matter 2-3 decades from now. Or will we be all swept away in the wave of technology, internet of things, AI, etc. that will reduce humanity and all their past feats to a spec of grain. Where is my free will towards the critical examination of my innate skills that does not linger in the delusion of legacy creation. I rather not follow the trend of my ancestors and the lineage of our society that have bought us horrors in the past in a bid to create legacy.
The marvels of curiosity
In our journey, if we encounter pleasures or pain then be it may. If we amass wealth, then even better. But the essence of “figuring it out by yourself” is the biggest gift one can bestow upon the next generation. We invariably hear the rags to riches story. We stumble across heroic fables of individuals who made it on their own without a godfather-like support or without kissing the ring of a will maker. These stories are in fact narratives that didn’t have the pressure of following a legacy. All they had was nothingness around them to fall upon and build their own art or empires upon it. The dampener however remains when even these heroes fall into the traps of creating legacies for their next and eventually falling into the same circle of life like others. Would it not be wonderful to have the achievers leave behind or create a legacy for their next to achieve too, but on their own accord, skill and vision. Would it not be great to leave behind a legacy of education and curiosity instead of the boring answers of a bank balance in response to the question of what after me?
Collaborate on the canvas
Now, we spoke on the legacy of the achievers, the ones who can provide. But what of those who cannot build one of their own. Those who lurk around in desolation that they have nothing to offer and submitting themselves to the doom of their failures. We come across quite a few of these from time to time. Wouldn’t it be great for us to help make them realise or support them in constructing their own legacies? These individuals are sometimes within our own families, communes or societies. We lavishly fail to take note of them. Who would want to be in their shoes one would say? But do we really know what they could have been capable of if the right canvas was presented to them. How about creating a legacy of establishing such societies?
True happiness is formed by picking others and getting them to your speed, it is said. What a wonderful legacy would that be for the future. However, the fears of losing identity, fame and power have to be dealt with at first. This is the falsified perception we have created about fear itself, thinking what would the questions be when we breathe our last. If death brings us the freedom from all materials, what good is it to realise it later and keep scourging in our lives to build ephemeral legacies. As mentioned, they hold no relevance in the great cosmic wave of humanity. For working mindlessly all our lives and for surreal matters in the attempt to establish, “I was here”, why not have someone inscribe for us, “he was here.” If this is echoed within your family, your communities, groups and circles that you are proudly part of or even the nation, what a legacy that would be!