I have been a bit under the weather lately. To recuperate, I was convalescing over the weekend with a good, if obscure book, called Beyond Life by James Branch Cabell. In reading it, I came across the following quote, which I found worthwhile enough to share:
"...And while it is well enough to leave footprints in the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure they point in a commendable direction."
It's such a simple premise, and yet perhaps because of the imagery, it resonated with me. The internet, social media, and cable television- including "reality television"- have really lowered the bar for what it takes to leave a mark for "posterity." Commerce has seen such a rise in the importance of search engine optimization that marketing now requires an almost constant presence- And many marketers have come to live by the motto, "Any press is good press."
But, at some point, when the frenzy dies down and the advertising dust settles, there will necessarily be a period of subjective reflection. At some point, whether we are movie stars or real estate bloggers, "posterity" will look at our body of work and decide if it was "good" or "bad," both aesthetically and morally.
James Branch Cabell wrote Beyond Life in 1919, and his quote referred to playwrights and novelists. Obviously there was no internet (there were no computers!). Even movies weren't yet a major social factor- The first Academy Awards weren't held until 1929. So, Cabell couldn't have contemplated Google, Twitter, YouTube, or any of the many, many ways in which almost every living person can now "leave footprints in the sands of time."
In 2013, however, we can. There are other legacies we'll leave, of course: children, friends, donations, volunteering. But "posterity" may only ever see whatever data we've left on the internet. My great-great-great-grandchildren may know more about me from my Stewart Title blog posts than from any other achievement in my life. That's a sobering thought! I can only hope they find such "footprints" "point in a commendable direction." :)