Everyone seems to want to “change the world”. People want to “make the world a better place”. We all have this desire for the world to be better because we were here. We want to be remembered for our contributions to society. In my research, I found hundreds of articles discussing legacy and how we can eternalize our names by striving for greatness.
I’m going to explain why there is absolutely no point in doing this. My theory seems to be unique and I think a good understanding of what I’m writing about today can be extremely beneficial to absolutely everyone. It will require an open mind. If I do a good job in my prose, you could have a radically altered outlook on life.
Essentially, it all comes down to death and what happens to the ego at the point of death. If you believe that once you die, your spirit will float up to the heavens leaving behind your body thus enabling an eternal conscious awareness, you can stop reading. I’m sorry I wasted your time.
My theory requires us to be on the same page about death. That is, that when you die, the ego dissipates. Another way of explaining this is that once you die, all of your memories, thoughts, experiences, pains, your sense of time, awareness… everything evaporates entirely in an instant. There is no more “I” or “me” either. You now only exist in the memories of those who are alive and living.
Let’s do an example here to really ram this home. In our example, there are only four people currently in existence on planet Earth as opposed to seven billion. John Doe is terminally ill and is on his death bed. Currently, there is an ego that resides within John, John’s Ego. Everyone else who is alive has an ego too: Jane’s Ego, James’ Ego, and Jill’s Ego. In order to have any conscious experience or in other words, to be alive, you must have an ego. This ego distinguishes yourself amongst others.
When John Doe dies, John’s Ego also dies, leaving only three possible ways in which conscious awareness can be experienced: Jane, James, and Jill. Before John died, he worked very hard to create a legacy for himself and to change the world. But here’s the kicker. He is no longer alive to experience the legacy he left. The only way in which he could experience reality was through his own ego which is now gone. Essentially, this means he cannot benefit from his legacy or, as some would put it, posthumous fame.
So we’re left with Jane, James, and Jill (one less than seven billion people). These three people can see the amazing work John did while he was alive and appreciate his efforts. However, without John’s Ego, it is impossible for him to experience or witness the appreciation the remainder of the population has. It is impossible for him to look down on the world and see his impact.
Currently, there is only the third person perspective. Jane, James, and Jill really admire the things John did and are sad that he’s no longer with them. Just in the same way that I appreciate what Michael Jackson did for pop music when he was alive and well.
Understand, however, that conscious experience can only be had by living people. If you die, you immediately become “that guy who died” and your “legacy” becomes the legacy of “that dead guy”. John used to refer to himself as “I” or “me” but this now becomes impossible and there is only John as the subject in someone else’s reality. We seem to view legacy as something very personal and associated with us and our ego but in reality it’s the complete opposite. It can only be experienced by others.
In the case of John Doe, his posthumous fame benefits absolutely no one. His fame or legacy is tied to an entity or ego that can no longer make claim to it or access the prestige that accompanies it.
By now, you’re probably very confused by all that I’ve said. And this is to be expected if you’ve never really twisted your mind in this particular way before. The more you practice thinking about the conscious state of awareness and how it interacts with death, the more sense this article will make.
So you might be saying, well it is perfectly fine for John Doe to not know just how much people appreciated what he did for the world because regardless, Jane, Jill, and James are much better off as a direct result from what John did.
But this is not the case. Humans are selfish animals at the core. We only do things when we stand to gain something from it. I actually wrote recently about the latent selfishness that accompanies altruism. We believe that diving in front of a bullet to save our loved ones is an altruistic act but in actuality we benefit from the resultant heroism, social recognition, and debt owed to us equally as much as our loved ones benefited by surviving the ordeal. And so when John set out to change the world for the betterment of everyone else, a seemingly altruistic and noble deed, he actually benefits greatly for this. After all, altruism is reduced to a mutually beneficial transaction of fortune.
So to wrap it up, when John dies, so does his ego. He can no longer benefit from any amount of posthumous fame and cannot seek refuge in the comfort of knowing his impact will be held in high esteem by those who remain. This delusion only works while we’re alive and there are much more lucid experiences we’d be better off having while alive.
I’ll also mention that just because your legacy expires as quickly as it comes about, this doesn’t mean we should dawdle through life and not do much. Yes, it is true that after all nothing really matters. But this is actually an exciting and liberating thought and is not as gloomy as it may seem.
It is true that once you die, everything you worked for and everything you did no longer matters. But we can benefit hugely from the application of this esoteric knowledge. If you fail to conceive how this is possible, I suggest you read my post about the liberation one experiences after this realisation.
If you would like me to clarify any parts or delve further into the subject of the last paragraph, please let me know below!