I was looking at the Monet paintings posted in yesterday's writing a few minutes ago, imagining taking a tour of his lily pond and big outdoor garden he created for an environment to paint in. I was thinking of the expense of hiring the work done, a considerable amount of money, remembering he was quite well off in his later years, the grand old man of Parisian art, whose paintings sold for huge prices. It occurred to me another reason he made the garden was for his legacy, something on the ground, living, to be his land down through time, preserved as an outdoor museum. His body would expire, though his name, Claude Monet, will live as the painter of some beautiful works, creator of a garden of equal beauty. He consciously created his legacy as he designed his garden with paths and footbridges after the Japanese style. This put me into thinking about some of my peers, who think about and plan for their legacy. The times peers have asked about my legacy, I could only say, I have none and want none. One had an arrangement made that his land will never be used for development. My thought on the matter: so what. For myself, I don't want the illusion of control in the future beyond my time. I don't want my name on a bridge. I don't want kids expected to memorize bullshit factoids about my life for school. I'll be leaving a house full of things important to me that become junk the moment of my demise. I am assured there will be no circling buzzards. I don't have anything anybody wants. Books, art and music. Buzzards want money and things with money value. All I'll leave is a mess for somebody else to clean up without any idea what to do with it. "Know somebody wants a bookshelf?" "No. Grandma might could use it to put her knickknacks on."
One of my peers is dashing about, belonging to this and that civic do-good outfit, contributing to the community, name and picture in the paper, footprints on the beach. Michelangelo left his legacy in marble. Big difference. Shakespeare has been known down through time until this time, over five hundred years. His face is about the same as a computer icon, like Einstein's face. Great men. Who cares what either of them did? Names to memorize for a test. Charles Darwin was a: 1) Chinese poet, 2) folk song railroad engineer, 3) biological scientist, 4) Sixties guitar hero. When it comes to people who have left the legacy of legacies, like Darwin bringing in a new cosmology, Bill Monroe bringing in a new form of music, Shakespeare and Michelangelo, icons of the Renaissance, timeless names, they end up as answers to test questions. And that's as good as legacy gets, one more name to bore kids in school out of their minds memorizing for the test. Looking at the state of civilization now, I've become convinced we are collectively at the end of this round of civilization. I don't even want a tombstone. I don't want to take up ground with a coffin inside an underground vault, encased in steel for millennia to keep out the worms. A grave is what we of Western Civ leave for a legacy, and I don't even want to leave a grave. I want my ashes strewn in the woods. I want my remains at least to be bone meal in the topsoil, the only legacy I have an interest in leaving. Ego would like to think I have something to contribute to the future, but I don't. The idea of a legacy appears to me a symbolic attempt not to die. A portrait hanging in the courtroom didn't extend his life one minute. My friend Bill Pruitt told me one day when we were out in the field working with chainsaws, he didn't want nothin said at his funeral but, he done the best he knowed how.
I can't leave out the peer who kept his obituary in his filing cabinet, adding to it as time went by, long enough to fill a full page in a major city newspaper. He died. I don't know if the obituary made it into the paper, considering his widow would have to mortgage the house to pay for it. I assume an edited version went into the paper. Don't know. Don't care. Thought it was gross when he told me about it, I sure don't want to see it. He sent me a copy in a big manila envelope. I never opened it. This is the legacy of the high school annual. The ones with the longest list of activities under their senior pictures win. Win what? Then there is the legacy of assets. None of it ever appealed to me as something I'd want. I've known enough people who died to understand that when it's over, it's over. No going back. No changing anything. Nothing left but to rewrite history. It seems to me it's the nature of the flow that is life. God is the creator, sustainer and destroyer. We are born, live our lives and die. Everything in this world of duality has its beginning, its time as a form, and its end. It seems like wanting to leave a part of self to endure past one's death date is out of tune with this flow that is the nature of everything, life itself. It took me a long time to be comfortable with this cycle that includes dying. It seems now like I get comfort from the cycle itself. I used to wonder why a loving God would create a world where everything has to kill to live. Coyotes kill a calf because they're hungry. What about the sanctity of life? I wondered about it until finally I saw killing to live the only way a self-sustaining world can make it. I can't get comfortable with the thought of wanting to control anything beyond my time in the body. The only thing I have asked or will ask about the future beyond my last day is the donkeys, Jenny and Jack, not be separated. It's not an absolute. Just something to make me feel better now, believing they have a good chance of living their lives til death do them part. I can't even imagine a legacy beyond now. I can't even concern myself with memories I'll leave with different people I know. It's not my concern. Mine is to live my life and that is all. It's the same if I do something memorable or not.
My feeling is the will to leave a legacy is a measure of one's fear of death. I could say these blog writings are my legacy, but I don't see it so. They are for the writing itself, only. I don't know that the internet will be available from one day to the next. The future I see for humanity is the end of this round of civilization is upon us. Not an end as an explosion, but a slow fade that picks up speed the closer it gets. The civilization to replace it has already begun, though it will have come from inside this civilization, like minimalism and pop art had their seed inside abstract expressionism. Pop and minimalism kept the cycle in motion revealing abstract expressionism not to be the final goal of Art. Civilization goes on changing and art expression changes with it. The next round of civilization will fade seamlessly out of the old ways into the new. I imagine a century from now will look back at now as relevant as we look at Egyptian civilization. As fire was the basis of the last round of civilization, electricity is central to the new, which has already begun. Humans may have to move underground to survive the burn-off of vegetation on the earth's surface and the dying oceans. We can generate electricity for lights to grow food by and generate oxygen while creating bigger and bigger underground spaces as time goes by. Civilization under ground will be very different from civilization above ground. Our records now are in computer clouds, dependent on an uncertain internet. It kind of looks like the legacy of this round of civilization presently ending will be a legacy of self-destruction, the whole surface of the earth desert. I can only see any legacy I might leave the same as footprints in the sand.
marcel janco himself