Imagine yourself at the end of your life. What sort of legacy will you leave? Describe the lasting effect you want to have on the world, after you’re gone.
“These writing prompts. They’re all the same!!!! Yesterday what do you want to do with your life, the day before something about three wishes, they’re all imagination flatteners, for me any way. I’m going to knock off this bad boy and go back to writing my novel. Or making a Crossopterygii sock puppet.”
“You don’t care about your legacy?”
“I’m an historian. I KNOW about legacies.”
“What do you know about legacies?”
“That it really doesn’t matter what a person does. History is a game of telephone across the time warp. Besides that, these days history is either gloriously scientifically precise (yay!) or pathologically revisionist. My students, for example, have not only been taught racism is BAD, but also they’ve taught to expect it. Really fucking stupid, if you ask me. It’s a strategy that perpetuates racism, but I discovered when I was 42 that I don’t run the world.”
“All they want you to write is what you want to be remembered for.”
“I strongly suspect — and even hope — no one will remember me at all. I am here by accident. Lucky for me, I like it here very much. Some don’t. I like it so much I actually FOUGHT to stay here through several deadly childhood illnesses. I was raised to believe — and I actually DO believe — that I should do some good for others, not so people ‘remember’ me but so my life is better. My novels are good, but so far no one wants to publish them — well that’s OK. At the ubiquitous end of the ubiquitous day what matters most is that I wrote them. Some of the best novelists of recent times seem to be essentially forgotten now — such as John Hersey — and kids are still forced to read The Pearl. The only person to whom it really matters what you do with your life is YOU. It might affect someone, but that’s really their business, right?”
“What about your friends?”
“I hope they know right now that I love them. I hope the Earth knows, right now, how much she has meant to me as a friend and ally. I hope the paintings, artists, great books and dead authors I’ve loved know in some way they’ve touched me.”
“See? Those dead authors left a legacy to you!”
“Yes they did. But they wouldn’t have written shit if they’d sat down to write their legacy. Thank God they sat down to write a story instead. As shall I, right now.”
“You’re a cynic.”
“Yes I am and proud of it. I’m in the best company.”
A disciple asked Diogenes, "What is the main reason for wearing a cynics robe and the begging bowl? "So as not to deceive oneself."
P. S. A friend sent me this quotation a couple of years back and said it made her think of me. I think, truly, that’s legacy enough.
"Her full nature ... spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs." George Eliot, Middlemarch