The local downtown (such as it is) features a series of tiny parks — just green squares, really, maybe with a badly carved and crumbling wooden statue. Each of these parkettes is named after somebody. Always somebody I’ve never head of. Usually somebody even local old-timers can’t remember. In one case (I know because the plaque says so) it’s a man who owned a print shop that lasted until 1936.
These sad plaques attempting to honor forgotten people got me thinking about legacies. Getting something named after you is usually supposed to be a tribute (not always, as in the notorious and NSFW case of Rick Santorum), but it almost seems as if it’s a guarantee of obscurity.
Oh, I don’t doubt that the men and women behind the eponymous parkettes were once vital members of the community. To whatever extent they actually contributed to the place and didn’t just do politics, I salute them even though I’ll never know who the hell they were. Still, the whole getting-stuff-named-after-you business is, IMHO, strictly to be avoided. Definitely a very poor way to ensure a legacy.
At best, it makes you seem boringly institutionalized. They do not name parks, bridges, and public buildings after Beat poets, guitar-smashing rockers, or psychedelic drug gurus. At worst, it tells the world you were a monumentally corrupt porker.
And legacies can be unpredictable. You may want to be remembered for one thing, then by accident of history become a legacy laughingstock. Even folks who are lucky enough to get a chance to exert some “legacy control” during their lifetimes, might still be grossed out by the outcome.
So as I say, I got to thinking. About legacies. I have some ideas about what I’d like my legacy to be (assuming I have one), and on how I hope it’s expressed. Of course, that’s largely up to the Fates. But thinking about how one would like to be remembered can make a difference in the choices we make and the way we live.
So what about you? What would you like your legacy to be? And what are you doing toward building the legacy you hope for? Use the comment section if you want to or keep it to yourself — but give it some real thought.
Please forget stuff like “I’d like to be remembered as the woman who found a cure for cancer” unless you’re really working on it. No “I want to be the man who led the world to eternal peace.” That’s hooey.
You being you and your life being what it is — or what you can make it — what legacy do you hope for?