Apparently last fortnight’s column, exploring ethical wills and memoirs, really inspired some readers. Among the feedback responses is this profound thought-provoker from reader and advocate “G”:
“These days I’m more and more distressed and depressed, and now resigned to mankind’s and the planet’s now-inevitable impending doom from environmental blight. To enhance their wealth and control, the power-elite rulers suppress media revelation and discussion of the startling facts, so we blithely and naively fail to realize that it’s indeed a impending likely calamity, even doomsday, for our grandchildren.
Meanwhile, the worldwide war-lord power-elite suppress and annihilate entire populations, and no nation or organization effectively deters them. Here in our country, commentators daily alert us to the destructively cost explosions and growing crises in health care, Social Security, Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicare, the economy, aging’s incapacities, social decay and conflict, and political partisanship.
Desperately, what is one to do? Seems that we ordinary folks don’t really have much power over our fate, and the best we can do is to realistically expect the worst and plan for it. But, we should also plan for the best, in the hope that we can enjoy life for a while, and that there’s some sort of desirable future for us and for our descendants.
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How can I communicate all of this to my loved ones, and make it convey my meaning and feelings, Gary?”
“G”, I think you just did. Magnificently! Now just write, speak, video, tape, text, or cyber-type it, and expose your loved ones to it in settings where and when it’s comfortable for you. You’ve created an awesome ethical will legacy letter for the benefit of your loved ones, bequeathing some of the gems of your own vast wealth of heartfelts.
Readers, what do you think?
In fact, I’ve been accumulating commentaries for a while and hope soon to have clear-enough vibes on where the Trump administration and Congress are leading us to, to update some of those very same issues that worry “G” and all of us.
Meanwhile, we can lighten up a little. Thinking about legacy letters, maybe we’ll enjoy exploring a little more about the gratifying and inspiring treasures that we can produce.
Since the beginning of written language, the famous and the ordinary, leaders and followers, rich and poor, scholarly and mundane, have been crafting ethical wills. Some, even dating as far back as Biblical times, are on record in various collections. Or they can be found among their makers’ memoirs, personal letters, published literature, personal mementos, biographies and autobiographies, formal lawyer-drafted estate plans, and even on the Internet. It’s baffling that we don’t think to create ours, bequests to our loved ones that we make property wills for.
They’re fashioned in many forms, too. An example from my archives: A literary quote from Sir Wilfred Grenfell, inscribed in epitaph form on a North Carolina grave marker, and historically reported in syndicated newspapers:
“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile”.
Another, much more recent: The widely-quoted June, 2005, writing of Steve Jobs, acclaimed innovator and Apple Computer Corp. icon, when he learned of his incurable cancer:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And, yet, death is the destination that we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday, not long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.“
How do you feel about this one?:
“There’s a scripture passage that goes something like: ‘O what is man, but a mere speck and a fleeting moment in the firmament?’. Yet, though I myself am merely one of those miniscule specks, I’m in overwhelming awe and exultation about the endless array of wonders and experiences that life has brought to me. Each adventuresome day, heralded by the cheering sunrise, and presenting so many fascinations of living, has been a joyful treat. There’s endless awesome learning and experience out there for everyone to participate in for all of one’s life.
Oh, the joy of living! As I prepare for the time when those days will end for me, I remind myself about oh, how lucky and joyfully grateful I am to have had so many of those miracles of life’s blessings”.
Might this one strike home?:
“I’ve admired many leaders in my lifetime. But my favorite role model was my Dad. Everything about him: Humility, boot-strapped self-made success, unconditional love, forgiving and patient temperament, endless teaching and companionship for his children, devotion to Mom, and all the rest.
Dad, I regret that I didn’t give you in return a lot more of the companionship and honor that you deserved, especially in your final aging and suffering years. Now, unforgivably late, but at least now being said: Thanks, Dad. Thank you an awful lot. You deserve my gratitude, however belated. And I miss you.”
Might you relate to this one, too?:
“My dear children, even if you heed nothing else of all that I have taught to you, please embrace this truth: The best opportunities come only when we have worked and persevered with faith and courage to make them happen. When they do, you must grasp them full force, even if you must sacrifice in order to do so.
Just think where we’d be in life if I hadn’t sought and won the internship at Community General, that required us to uproot and move far away from home and start all over again. And now I’ve worked up to over the years to H.R. Director. If it weren’t for that effort and that belief in my ability to succeed, I’d likely still be wiping snotty noses and changing dirty diapers at the day care center back home.”
How about this?:
“Despite all the talking and the passage of time, we still have animosity among us about how Joe’s estate was handled. My heart aches about this. Must we have discord forever, over mere money and property? Can’t we turn it all over to a group of two or three arbitrators, friends whom we all trust and respect, to settle it all for us? Let’s get past this materialistic haggling, and back to the joys of respect, love, and wholesome togetherness”.
And, an up-beat finale:
“I’ve sometimes been criticized because of my life style. My philosophy is so well expressed on a placard that I once saw in a souvenir store:
‘After paying your dues, plus some, to the world, to your kinfolk and to the universe around you, life should not be a pure and unblemished journey to the grave with a constrained and inhibited mind, and with the intention of arriving safely in a spotless white wrapper — but rather to skid in sideways, Chardonnay in one hand, poker hand in the other, totally fulfilled, worn out, and screaming ’Whoa, what a ride!’”
OK, thanks to “G” for the inspiration. The opportunity is yours. Do one or many. Go for it!
Contact Gary Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your ideas and comments are always welcome.