It is comforting to think that after we die, we will be remembered by others still living. But if we aren’t, what does that mean?
While human life spans have increased — in fact, more than doubled — in the last century or two, life is still exceedingly short. No one has managed to live past a hundred and fifty years old.
The way to immortality, then, is through our legacy. The children we raise. The work that we did that survives us. The stories and memories that continue to live on.
This is a common message through media. Emotional movies tug at our heartstrings, with characters saying that they feel the presence of a loved one. It is a common theme, understandably, at memorial services.
Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What gives a person value?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes you you?’
There are humans who have such an impact that they survive in our collective memory. It is usually through a discovery or artistic creation or a momentous feat of some kind. We know the name and achievements of someone who lived a thousand years ago. It would be nice if we were to have such an impact that we would be remembered or celebrated for hundreds or even thousands of years.
But would it really? It really makes no difference to you, after you die. Your death is not made better or happier if your name goes down in history.
Isn’t it more important to live your life in a fulfilling way right now? The future is uncertain at best, and won’t, barring unforeseen increases in human lifespans, include you?
Alternately, if you are not remembered, or only remembered for a short span of time, did your life, your existence, really mean anything at all?
Does it matter how long we are remembered?