Spoke of death last week, of the goin’ when it’s the goin’ time, spoke of not knowing almost a single thing save what I believe when it comes to where we’re goin’, when that goin’ time shows up. Still don’t know, never will until I get to the goin’ of it all, until then I suppose, I’ll just speak of it often and openly, and aim that speakin’ more at the stayin’ and less about the leavin’.
That’s what I’m doing today, talking not of where we go, when we go, or even how we go, but more, what we’ll do before that. You see, my sister Rian has a birthday coming up tomorrow, and birthdays get me thinking. Something she’d never tell you, even if prompted six dozen different ways, is that she’s already begun the process of leaving behind one hell of a legacy, and she’s not even close to the goin’ of it all I spoke of above. She, and she will blush at my speaking of this, has an entire floor of a building named after her at Gonzaga University. Get this, SHE STILL WORKS THERE. How many people do you know, that create such a strong legacy, that their legacy actually begins whilst they are still doing the thing they created that legacy in? Few, friends. Few. Anyway, Happy Birthday Rian, I love you to the moon, and I hope this birthday is a fine one, fine as great wine that’s waited to be as fine as it is.
Clearly, when it comes to leaving behind some kind of legacy, I’ve got some pretty damn big shoes to fill. Thing is, my autism makes it really, really hard to think about this kind of thing, because I’m generally shit at thinking of myself, and even more, what others think of me at all. I just don’t know how the person I am is received, how it’s interpreted, processed, and perceived. People, I think, tend to really love me, or they really, really do not. I don’t know how to change this, and I don’t know how to care about the changing of this, so things have always stayed how things have always been. I am what I am, said Popeye, and me I guess, and I don’t know much else. Saying that, it did very much intrigue me going down this rabbit hole when a friend of mine asked me a pretty simple question that really stirred the sediment from the bottom of my brain:
What do you want to be remembered for? What will be Your legacy?
I didn’t know what to say, not really, which is an odd place to find myself, as I feel like I always know what to say, even if I don’t know how to say it. Couple of months back, right after hopping off an airplane from Belize, Lady Gregson and I were asked to be featured on a documentary series here in Montana called “Under The Big Sky.” I was surprised by this, as I don’t have a book coming out anytime in the immediate future, and neither of us knew the angle the story would take. It took on a lot of angles, in the end, everything from Buddhism, to Autism, to Love, to LGTBQ+ acceptance, to, in the end, the legacy we’ll leave behind. When the dust settled, the final thing I offered up, was that all I cared of, all I wished for, was to be remembered as someone who was gentle, who was kind, and who gave all I was. That’s it. I care not of any legacy beyond this, I care not what they speak of when they speak of me, save this.
I want them to say I was gentle. I want them to say I was kind.
We fight really hard to be special though, don’t we? We think that if we can just do something grand, something memorable, we’ll go down in history as grand, as memorable, as special. Maybe we will, but maybe, just maybe, it’s not about how Many people remember our names, but the look on their face when they say it aloud. Maybe it’s the depth of the syllables when they speak of us, more than the number of them in the sentences they say. Maybe it’s something even smaller, maybe it’s not words but a feeling that washes over those that own the ears that hear the words when they knew us while we were here. Maybe.
I don’t have the answers, not here, I never have. I think and hope that you all come here, and keep showing up week after week, not for answers, but for the questions I ask instead. I think Signal Fire is a place of questions, a place to reflect on things bigger than ourselves, be that life, be it death, be it love, poetry, or the mystery that is the human experience. I don’t know if there’s a bigger one than the idea that swirls around what will be left of us when we’re gone from here.
I know my sister Rian didn’t do what she did, change the lives she did, to get a floor in a building named after her, and I think, if I really think hard about it, that’s precisely why she had a floor named after her. The best of us don’t do the things we do to be remembered, we do them because they are the right thing to do, and in the end, it’s probably gonna be exactly why we get remembered for them anyway. Maybe this is the thing, this is the legacy we should chase, not one of a hundred years from now, but of now. Of right this now, and the only voice we should ever worry about how it’ll speak of us, is our own.
The more good we do, the more kindness we give, the more our own voice would say kind things, the more it’d sheepishly nod and agree that as humble as we would like to stay, that horn needs tooting, and so it will be tooted. All the talk of where we go after this time in this skin truly got me thinking about so much about life, about how we have to practice harder letting go of all we cannot control, whilst working harder at giving our own kindness and empathy away with increased freedom. I know not what comes next, but I know what’s here, now, and it’s a thousand people, all needing our love, our compassion, our tender hands.
Let’s start there, and let those that come deal with the nonsense of legacy and the monuments to who we were. We cannot be who we’re supposed to be, if we’re constantly worrying about what they’ll say after we’ve become them. What a paradox of a Signal Fire this is, and I understand that, I hope you know. We cannot become the people worthy of monuments, of song, of legends told over centuries long, if we’re already worrying about being people worthy of monuments, of song, of legends told. Only by forgetting all of that, pretending (if you’re not blessed with Autism which makes that easy) you don’t care at all how you’re spoken of, how you’re remembered, of what stone the statues will be chiseled from.
Live your life like you’ve all to give, like you’re born for the giving, live your life like you’ve no business in the nonsense of legacy, and I have a sneaking suspicion, when they speak of you, when they remember you ages upon ages after you’ve gone, all the words will sound soft in their mouths, all the statues will be strong.
I know not what they will say of me, I know not what all will be remembered when I go from here. This is ok. This, is ok.
What will they speak of,
what all will be remembered,
when I go from here?