Yesterday, I read a post by Matt Gemmell called “Legacy”. It was good (everything I’ve read of his has been), but it didn’t chime with me at all. Given that Matt makes explicit reference in the piece to his being too young at thirty four to be as worried as he is about the aftermath of his existence, it seems laughable that I should have such strong feelings on the matter at twenty seven.
The strange thing is, I do have strong feelings on my legacy: I’d rather not leave one. Maybe it’s my own kind of fiercly held modesty, but I like to tread softly as a rule. I have no presence whatsoever on social networks, I make little effort to draw attention to either this blog or my website, and I stopped using google entirely because I was concerned about the footprint I was leaving on their servers.
This approach began a long time before I started downsizing my Internet presence, however. When I was seventeen, I had a grand plan for my Advanced Higher Biology investigation - I was going to compare the levels of lichen growth in places with differing levels of air pollution. In order to carry this out in a fair and valid way, I needed pieces of stone of known age in each area, so I did what any slightly morbid seventeen year old does, and visited a range of graveyards in East Lothian.
In the end, the SQA put the kibosh on the project (relegating me to three weeks among the wood lice in lieu), but I did develop a new philosophy while I was out there. Being among these monuments, seeking out the epitaphs of those who had died around the turn of the century, it occurred to me that there are no witnesses left to these peoples’ lives. I was of the opinion even then that all things have their time, and that the cycle of change was important.
Since that spring, I’ve read a lot and learned a lot, and come to the conclusion that I was right all along.
We are each of us here temporarily: there’s a start point that we can’t remember, and an end point sometime hopefully fairly far off. The time in between is the part worth worrying about: if we can live well and help other people to do the same, I’d call that a good use of the time available to us. All things must change, and eventually the shadow I cast in the minds of the people I know will fade away in the light of their new experiences. That’s the way it should be, I think: no one of us is more important than the rest, except to each other.
So while Matt’s writing will propel some part of him onwards into the unknowable future, I would hope that my writing will fade away along with me, consigned to the bottom of a cupboard in a long forgotten box somewhere. Just make sure you read it before that happens.
This is from the