“I don’t remember where I was when I realized life was a game. The more seriously I took things, the harder the rules became.”
–lyrics from “À Tout le Monde” by Megadeth.
Life isn’t fair. As my own means of coping (and flourishing) in this absurd world we live in, I have began, in recent years, to think of life as a game. If you accept my premise that life is a game, then like any other game, there must be ways of “winning.” There must be objectives we are pursuing.
So what is the objective of life?
Far be it for me to answer that classic existential question in a single blog post. I have thought on this question like so many others before me have, and so many people after me will. Deeper thinkers than this squirrel have meditated on the subject of existentialism and have reached their own (sometimes) profound conclusions. I think it is safe to assume that the answer is different for each person:
- To leave the world a better place than you found it.
- To be successful (however “success” may be defined for you–happiness, wealth, or maybe wisdom).
- To continue your genetic lineage (through procreation).
What do each of these answers have in common?
It is to create a legacy.
We as mortal beings have a finite amount of time to leave our marks on this planet. An infinitesimal amount of time in fact. We are hardly more than miniscule blips in history. Most humans will never be remembered when their time on this planet comes to an end. That is sobering, isn’t it?
In our quest to give meaning to our lives–to be more than a forgotten blip in time–we each in our own way strive to create something which lasts beyond our own corporeal bodies. We want to create an impression on the world, however small it might be. To create a legacy which makes our lives have meaning beyond the all-too-brief time we are alive.
So it is that many of us are driven to have children, because our offspring keep our genetic material in circulation, and they keep the memory of our short existence around, hopefully for generations after we are long gone.
Those individuals who have the tenacity, skills, and luck to build wealth during their lifetime may recognize that they can “buy” a legacy through philanthropy: foundations, endowments, and scholarships. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, and other industrialists learned this and their names live on in part because of the investments into legacy projects which they made in their golden years. In more modern times, we see this in action with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Jimmy Carter Center, and Oprah’s Angel Network.
My wife and I have chosen not to have children. We are definitely not wealthy. Fortunately, we do have some creative talent, so we are developing our writing skills with the goal of publishing our work. With persistence and some luck, we hope to create our legacy by helping others and by leaving our mark with the written word.
It’s a tough game we play, this game of life. We have a limited amount of time before the clock stops, so we had best work hard if we want to win!
Tell me, Dear Reader: how will you create your legacy? Share your ideas by posting a comment below.