What’s up with all these bronze statues?

Legacy: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Yesterday, while walking through Kensington Gardens, I came across the statue of a horse and rider. It’s called the Physical Energy Statue and was created by George Frederick Watts as a memorial to “unknown worth”. While the statue is not of a specific individual, it got me thinking about that multitude of statues that exist celebrating a person from the past.

I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck a couple of years ago, and the take on legacy has stuck with me. His argument is that trying to leave a legacy might ruin your life. Leaving a legacy has become our immortality project. Even though we cannot live forever, we try to do things during our lives that will outlast our physical bodies. Think about all the buildings with names on them, or statues of famous people.

How does focusing on legacy ruin your life? It leads to chasing fame and obsessing over the future instead of being here and present. If you can bring joy to those around you now, the legacy will work itself out. The urgency of leaving a legacy comes from our fear of death. Our fear that we didn’t accomplish enough. The fear that we will be forgotten.

I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time. ~ Banksy

The ironic thing about the above quote is that after a preliminary search, it seems like that isn’t an original Banksy quote. A much fuller discussion than I want to present here can be found on Reddit.

All this draws me back to questions about my own legacy. Yes I can take Mark Manson’s advice and focus on joy in the present instead of my legacy in the future. But when opportunities present themselves to me, how should I act? If a metaphorical bronze statue is offered to me (bear with me I know it’s a stretch), should I even accept it. Is living on in the minds of those who knew me enough? Why do we feel the need to be remembered?

All I can do I pour myself into the work that I do, and hope that my legacy will work itself out.