Some people live for the here and now; and some live for the future. I’ve historically been one of those future dwellers — always planning; always sacrificing today for the promise of a better tomorrow. Funny thing though: the older you get, the less of a future you have. It’s one of those immutable laws of physics that eventually forces many a “futurist” to become a “here and nower.”
To date, I’ve failed to budge one iota from a tendency to plan several decades in advance — decades that, thanks to those immutable laws, now stretch into the afterlife, and the somewhat nebulous notion of “legacy.”
As legacies go, mine is a bit ramshackle. There were a couple of synth pop albums in the early 1990’s — neither earned me a dime, though friends did report hearing the music while on-hold for Microsoft Tech Support. So I’m pretty sure I don’t want that as my legacy. Additionally, I’ve had a significant hand in numerous music technology innovations — particularly early in my career. These, however, were all conceived and designed while employed by some company or another, and are thus unrecognizable as a personal legacy. Also, there’s that BC License Plate, which is sort of the photography analog to the Microsoft hold music. Which, pathetically, just leaves this website…
Legacy-wise, it seems I have less to mark my time on earth than the guy who knocks up his girlfriend at the high school dance.
But recently — and surprisingly — that iota of mine seems to have shifted ever so slightly, and I’m beginning to think living for the future isn’t really the sophisticated endeavour it’s cracked up to be. Society tends to put us planners on a pedestal, as if careful consideration of one’s future actions is more noble than succumbing to the lure of current delights. But is it? As a lifelong model of such virtue, I’m questioning whether all this planning isn’t just an elaborate ruse — concocted by my subconscious as a way to pretend I’m doing something useful with my life when, in fact, I’m not doing a damn thing. When you live for today, you can assess your situation, and adjust accordingly to maximize each moment. When you live 20 years in the future, there’s no accountability — so you get to be a little lackadaisical on the fine details.
Besides, when did anyone who’s planning 20 years into the future ever achieve a single one of their objectives? What good is living for a future that never comes? When I was 10 and planning for 30, my world was consumed with designing fashionable jetpacks and garages with retractable roofs to facilitate my hovercraft. As I aged, my planning became more practical, and as little as a decade ago, my scenario for this year involved being retired from my day job, working on ULTRAsomething full time, and making annual pilgrimages to Japan. Unfortunately, these plans seemed to collide with someone else’s plans for a worldwide pandemic, savings-eradicating inflation, and a generational disinterest in both the written word and in any sort of metaphoric and/or ‘social landscape’ photography.
If I can’t make feasible plans for life in the future, how am I supposed to make them for death? Why worry about legacy when I don’t even have a currency?
Putting aside my suspicion that legacy planning is merely a mollification of a life lived for naught, there’s another sticky issue: 100 years from now, will there be any humans left to care? That was the timeline for human extinction, suggested by Stephen Hawking at the end of his life — and I’m starting to think he was an optimist. So it’s pretty silly to invest all this time and energy into building a legacy, when there’s only going to be another generation or two. Tops.
So all these plans I’m making for my work to outlive me? They’re as absurd as designing a house with a hovercraft garage. Wouldn’t the more sensible plan be to simply try to take a photo that pleases me when I look at it? Or write a piece of music that I want to listen to? Or pen an essay I actually want to re-read?
Besides, no one really gets to choose their own legacy. Show me the reanimated corpse of most anyone famous, and I’ll show you one ticked-off zombie — annoyed to discover all the inaccurate quotes, actions and beliefs that society has wrongfully attributed to them. My intentions in life are misunderstood enough — I can only imagine how they would be interpreted in death.
What is legacy really? And why do we all want one? At its most basic, it’s really just a desire to be remembered… or at least to have had one’s existence acknowledged. I’ve always balked at the idea that children are a legacy, even though it’s the most surefire way of being mentioned for another generation or two. Some people are so desperate to be remembered, they don’t even care what it is they’re remembered for — just some post-mortem acknowledgement that they once roamed the planet. But what’s the point? I certainly don’t know anything about the people who don’t yet exist, so why care if they know anything about me?
So I’m making a conscious effort to step away from the “legacy planning” thing. And while there’s still a little of it left, I’ll be diving head first into the “here and now.” Obviously though, before doing anything too rash, I’ll need to consider how future generations might perceive this decision of mine… I wouldn’t want to do anything to tarnish my legacy.
© 2022 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THE PHOTOS: “Optimism Rally” was photographed with a Leica M10 Monochrom, fronted with a 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M. “Shoddy Matinée” was shot on Fomapan 100, inside a Nikon 28Ti, and developed in HC-110 (H). “Condo Living” was photographed through a 35mm f/3.5 Elmar LTM lens and Leica IIIc, onto Tri-X at ISO 400, and developed in HC-110 (E). “Placeholder” was shot on FP4+ at ISO 125 and developed in HC-110 (H). The camera was the cheapest bit of utter crap I could possibly find. It shall remain ‘nameless,’ since it’s a gift I’ve yet to present to a photographer friend. Hmm… maybe this is indicative of why I have so few friends.
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