— Havamal, 77
A friend of mine died recently. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was depressing nonetheless. She was concerned with her legacy after her death, which is certainly understandable. But there were several things that happened around this time that made me think about a person’s legacy. I’ll probably be saying something someone who reads this will take umbrage at, so be forewarned.
There’s a lot of conjecture whether someone who is of another faith goes into their god’s afterlife, while we Heathens go to ours, but I truly suspect that if there is an afterlife, that we all go there, regardless of our faiths. This is my belief, and a few of my UPGs (Unverified Personal Gnosis) seem to confirm this. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), and given that none of us REALLY know, it’s sort of a moot point, anyway.
Shortly after my friend’s death, I went to a convention that I was committed to going to. There, I ran into some new people whom I haven’t met (I know quite a few peeps in my real life) and the comment one person made after reading my bio and talking to me was that I was vying for the title of the most interesting person.
Mundane versus Interesting
That, of course, got me thinking. It wasn’t my intent to become anything anyone would be interested in. My life seems rather mundane, at least to me. There are plenty of things I have to do so I may eat, such as writing Internet content, hunting, and taking care of the critters. I’ve done <mumble, mumble> racing and have had plenty of outdoor experiences, but I hardly think of myself as interesting or unique.
If anything, I have some of the worst patience when it comes to living. My basic problem is that it’s exceedingly hard to cram in all the experiences I’m looking for in a finite unit of what amounts to a lifetime, that I sort of become frenetic when I do stuff. There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t been, and too many things I haven’t tried. So, I get that my life seems on the surface interesting, but in reality I’m racing against time to do stuff I want to do, even if it’s a pain sometimes to make plans for it.
My husband remarked that people think my life is interesting because they don’t deal with the minutia that I do all the time. They hear the stories and see the outcome. Hence, they compare their lives which are relatively comfortable by comparison and look at my life as an adventure. Now, to be honest, there are some interesting stories I have that are even amusing, but it isn’t something I set out to do to impress anyone.
As I said earlier, my friend before she died was concerned with her legacy, in this case, as a writer. I get that one’s legacy is important, but to quote the Doctor, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” What we leave behind isn’t immortal, by any stretch. But our deeds, our stories that bear repeating are, assuming people find them interesting in some fashion.
Seldom does the person who lives a common life end up remembered for the day-to-day crap. To paraphrase an old adage, boring lives rarely make history. The person must have done something notable to get considered worthy of our attention. But even then, it’s a hit or miss.
You Want a Guarantee? Buy a Toaster
Even if you live an uncommon life or achieve some sort of fame or notoriety, there’s no guarantee you’ll live on by your work or deeds. I’ll make my point with writers, though you can do it with just about anything. There are plenty of prolific writers who aren’t household names. Unless you’re a well read writer, you probably don’t know who Anthony Trollope was. He wrote 47 novels in his lifetime and quite a few shorter works. He was famous in his day. How about Lauran Paine, who wrote more than 900 works? How about Andrew Murray who wrote more than 240 works?
Now, there are authors whom we do recognize such as Isaac Asimov, Barbara Cartland, and Michael Crichton, who were prolific, but it’s no guarantee that will happen just because you write a lot, or even make a bestseller. Doing something well and extraordinary my may continue a legacy, or may not. In fact, some authors do better after they die than while alive. Which is why pursuing fame is difficult.
My friend’s legacy is sadly mixed. Her books didn’t take off the way she hoped and toward the end she was doing things that she hoped would make her books appear better. She was a good writer, but like many writers, she wanted everything perfect. Only there wasn’t any way for them to be perfect. Still, she has a legacy of sorts, and one that will hopefully be remembered.
What the Fuck does this have to do with Heathenry?
If you haven’t read my quote from the Havamal at the beginning, read it again. At some time, despite my insistence that I refuse to die, I suspect we all are going to the grave. What lies beyond is anyone’s guess. Sure, we may end up in Helheim, Valhalla, Folksgangr, or any one of the halls of the gods. Maybe we’ll just be in our graves. Maybe we reincarnate, or maybe we just go into oblivion and our bodies rot.
When we go, we should have lived a life of honor. And at least an interesting life.