Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: In a hundred years, who will remember or be remembered?
It’s easy to read something like this and to think that it’s saying that none of what we do matters in the long run. That’s not the point. The point is that basing your life around “trying to leave a legacy so that others will remember you” is futile. The way you “leave a legacy” is through your impact on others, in what you do or do not do today–for better or for worse. Fame is short and fleeting–and sometimes comes too late to be enjoyed, or comes with unforeseen drawbacks. I’m reminded at the moment of the composer Miecszyslaw Weinberg, Shostakovich’s friend. His life was as full of turmoil as Shostakovich’s was, including fleeing Poland to the USSR during WW2 and being arrested in February 1953 in the midst of Stalin’s anti-Semitic purges; only Stalin’s convenient death the following month and Shostakovich’s intervention with Beria seems to have saved him from suffering the fate of his murdered father-in-law. He was a prolific composer; his works included 22 full symphonies, 17 string quartets, seven operas, and 40 film scores. But it would not be until the mid-90s that his works began to receive much attention outside the USSR (and even there, they were obscure)–and he died in 1996. He wrote an opera, The Passenger (about a Nazi concentration camp survivor) in 1967-8 that was not premiered until 2006 and did not receive a full staging until 2010; it’s now being regarded as a masterpiece. Weinberg died in relative obscurity–yet he continued to write all of those years, and now we get to hear his works. Perhaps they will be forgotten in a hundred years, but they are here for us now.
My thread in the tapestry is tiny, in the sweep of time, but it is there nonetheless, and it has the power to affect other threads, which will affect others in turn. I do this even though my name will be forgotten. If I only chase fame or reputation for the sake of self-glorification, chances are I will spend my life deeply unsatisfied for not achieving “my dreams.” But if I pursue a life where I make myself the best person I can be, and then try to do or influence others to do the same, to build together a beautiful weaving of life, then I can be truly happy now–which is the only time it really matters.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened, but this time it was fresh in mind.
When I heard about the Nashville bombing, my mind flashed immediately back to 15 months ago (precisely) when I had made my brief visit to the city–a pilgrimage of sorts, to hear Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 4 performed live. I arrived early enough to wander around the downtown core for a bit–the honky-tonk atmosphere in marked contrast to the restrained elegance of the Schermerhorn Symphony Centre just a few blocks away. This Nashville wasn’t really my scene, but there was a sense of celebration and fun in the air that was enjoyable to just observe, and the historic buildings themselves were attractive. I went into a couple of stores (had to get a charm for my pilgrimage bracelet), got dinner, and acquired some Goo-Goo Clusters before heading in for my concert. I wrote about it here, and you’ll notice there is a photo there of the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Broadway. And I realized, as I saw the before and after photos of the bombing site, I’d walked through that area–it was a little more than one block north. I recognized the names of some of the businesses there. And suddenly it was much more vivid to me. Those memories are so special to me because I associate them with the final hour or so before I realized a dream.
The other time this has happened was when the World Trade Centre towers fell. I’d visited them, too, but it had been sixteen years before, so the memories were less fresh, although the scope of the tragedy itself was, of course, much greater. But that trip, too, my senior year in high school, had been particularly special–the first time I’d been to New York City, in the final months of high school, with one group of my friends–now tinged with bittersweet.
I am glad the Nashville bombing did not result in deaths–only damage to structures–but these buildings were not just iconic–real people worked and lived there, and there will be a metaphorical hole there long after the physical damage is repaired. Me? I will be hard pressed to listen to the Shostakovich 4th Symphony again without wistful thoughts of the city that brought it to me.
My suit is done, as you can see in the above photo. There will likely need to be a little more pressing done, but I am pleased with how it turned out. It is a little bit sad to not have a plan for when I will wear it, like I have traditionally had for my holiday sewing projects, but it will be there for whenever that happens. I have still not worn the dress from last year’s session.
I am getting the urge to hold off on the marginalia cats until I have the waistcoat pattern in hand, and to start in instead on the next scheduled embroidery piece–which would be another display piece, rather than something to go on clothing. I am going to need to give that one some thought.
Meanwhile, we move ever closer to the end of the year. I expect there will be something that has been in the works for awhile to discuss here on January 1.