While on national service in faraway Ondo State, Nigeria, I saw something that has kept me thinking about something. What I saw was this: a so-many-years-old grave was dug up to exhumed and transfer the bones of the deceased to another site. Why? Because the land that bore the grave had just been sold, and the buyer possibly didn’t think he should keep both the magnificent tombstone sitting atop the remains of the deceased that stood conspicuously on the newly acquired property. Or, perhaps the family decided to give him that much from the money realized from the sale of the land. Like I said earlier, this experience has left me thinking ever since then, even to the point of this writing. Why? Because whoever erected that tombstone, that magnificent tombstone, didn’t see this coming; there definitely won’t be another tombstone on the new burial site.
There is yet another story to the same effect. A king decided to erect a magnificent monument of himself in the village square. That monument was not just magnificent but imposing, awe-inspiring and resplendent. And he had erected this monument in the hope that generations yet unborn would remember that there once lived a great king. True to his thinking, for the 100 years that his statue stood atop the acres of the village square, successive generations learnt about such a great king that he was. On the 100&1th year, a Trunk A (federal) road plan ran across the square and right through the monument. Your guess is as good as mine; Julius Berger pulled it down without a second thought. And the memory of the late king went with it.
There is even yet another story. A certain politician reasoned that the best legacy was leave his bloodline rich forever. And he did attempt to do that; he bled the public coffers under his watch dry and stashed away mouthwatering figures in different foreign accounts. He didn’t stop there; he went on to buy pieces of choice property worth billions of dollars in next to all the ivy cities on the planet. Guess what? His second generation suffered from the problem of too much money = senselessness. And his very undoing was that the guy that signs the check in this particular generation fell in love with Las Vegas – the capital of gambling. Little by little, and like the odds were never in his favour, he burnt every single dime of that so much money and got the empire crashing down. And that was it! Nothing to remember the guy who chose to immortalize himself on cash.
True to these stories and many others that will ever remain untold, people have sought to leave a memory of themselves in the ‘wrongest’ of ways.
Realistically, we’re hardwired for legacy. There’s this way we go crazy about wanting to be remembered when we’re no more. And we equally know that nobody remembers us just for memory’s sake. No. We’re remembered for what we leave behind, and this is called LEGACY. It is for the reason of legacy that we can immortalize ourselves. From the preceding stories, we can already see, albeit wrong, the different ways in which people leave legacies – monuments and wealth.
On the flip side of it are those we can’t afford to forget, because they changed everything forever. For instance, as long as we say “July” and “August,” we’re remembering Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, both men of great legacies. As long as we write A.D. and B.C., we mention the name of the greatest man that ever lived – Jesus Christ. We remember Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Augustine, Aquinas, etc. because of their breathtaking contributions to the expansion of the frontiers of humanity’s knowledge-base. And their memory has been around with us like forever now.
What about Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte? What about Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Michael Faraday? What about William Shakespeare, Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi? What about Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie? These men, and no offense to women, gave their very best to the betterment of humanity’s lot.
Seen thus, there are many ways to leave legacies, but some of them just don’t work. And, by this blog post, I wish to call to our mind the necessity of choosing our legacies carefully. Instead of erecting a monument, why not write a book? Instead of stashing money away in a Swiss bank account, why not donate a library to a university.
On the whole, the best way to leave a legacy has always been: