“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
Maybe it’s the season. Fall turning into winter, the beautiful fall colors and warm autumn sun disappearing. Maybe it’s because now it is the season of my life when the years ahead of me are smaller than the years behind. Nostalgia and sadness catches me off guard as I manage my days and my mood. It takes a little more to remember my gratitudes and my blessings. It seems as I’ve gotten older I find myself reflecting on my past and my place in this life. I often wonder what will be left of me when I’m gone—what is my legacy?
“I’m more and more coming to the idea that it’s the lineage and the connection to the past and the connection the future— that is the real connection.” Philip Glass
Philip Glass, in his memoir, Words Without Music wrote this about his death and his legacy; “ What have we brought to the world and what do we leave behind us and what does the future have for us? The future is our children. It’s our friends. It’s our work. It’s all around us.” He goes on, “It’s not the living and dying, it’s the continuity of the lives that’s important.” He describes it as continuity contributed. This phrase stuck with me. What is “continuity contributed”?
Continuity: a quality of something that does not stop or change as time passes. In our current age of keeping up with the fast and constant changes, what is continuous? Certainly our genetics if we reproduce. But if we don’t there is also our influence on the environment and culture, our “footprint”. Continuity may include how we are changed by external or environmental factors and what we pass on. Our cultural values, stewardship of our earth and the animals on it, our contribution to the arts and sciences are likely to have ongoing ripple effects.
A simple example of my continuum is illustrated below:
Before birth – Birth – My life span – Death – Beyond death
Before my birth? My known family genetics display threads of physical health, intelligence, creativity in the arts and music, exploration, anxiety, high cholesterol and heart disease and a propensity towards addiction and process addiction. These are things I’ve been predisposed to, or what has been “given to me” biologically. ( DNA testing found that our family genetics are predominately European (99.6%) with some Ashkenazi (German Jews). The rest is .4% East Asian and Native American with a smidgen of Japanese thrown in.)
At my birth I was given a propensity towards all of the above and was born into a particular family in a particular birth order at a particular moment in time. My life span began to include my experience of those things and my reaction to them. All of that influenced my thinking and behaviors in ways that either enhanced or suppressed those traits. Who I met, what cultural changes were happening, where I chose to travel and live also began to affect these traits. This is where the mystery happens. In my life, how the ingredients for this milk shake shook is my life legacy. The threads of my propensity towards heart disease were slowed when I chose to eat healthy, exercise and not smoke, drink or use drugs to excess. I learned and practiced not to do the behaviors that exacerbate the disease. The threads of my predispositions towards creativity in the art, music, anxiety and addictions were either enhanced, suspended or broken entirely.
My past cultural threads include racism, sexism, and “faith, hope and charity.” My family immigrated to the South and mid-western states from Europe and either adopted the racism that was inherent in those times and places or brought it with them. I am a daughter of a woman born in 1919, two years before women won the right to vote. That is only one generation away from the legal change for women to be equal citizens under the law instead of owned objects. (One generation to reconfigure the term Black Friday that commemorated the November 1910 brutal beating of the suffragettes to the commercialization of the term Black Friday to mean the biggest shopping day of the year.
I was born to and raised by a woman who, for the first two years of her life, was “owned”. I carried that into the Women’s Movement of the 1960s-70s where I and a whole generation began to look for more equality in the eyes of the dominant culture.
I have committed my adult life to the eradication of racism and sexism, child abuse and political injustice. I strive to save and sustain the health and beauty of the earth and its sustainability. That is my cultural legacy. I have devoted a large part of my life to reversing and managing my anxiety and the resultant addictions that may have seemed a solution to its effects and then to support others in their recovery.
My intention is to spend my time, money and energy on all of these changes. I believe in being of service and passing on my “faith, hope and charity” willingly to those who ask. Sam and I wrote our book on Wealth and Well-Being because we wanted to pass on knowledge that would positively change how people think about money. I, in part, photograph the beauty of the earth so that others will recognize that beauty and want to preserve it.
So, what of my art and the clear artistic genes that have been passed on to me? What of my creativity and love of music? Is the legacy that I leave behind the photographs that I create? They are, after all only paper and pixels. My good friend Fiona told me that when she looks at my photographs, she feels the emotional impact of the image and her life is enhanced and she is changed because of it. My legacy may not be so much the photographs or the products that I create with photographs in them, but the mere mysterious change that art creates within the individual who views them and thus is changed by them.
I don’t know when the time and place of my physical death will be. I do know my continuum extends through my death and beyond to generations of people after me—certainly to my children and grandchildren and their children. My contributions resonate in the lives of the people who know me and who I know and will continue to do so for as long as there is an earth and a people to live on it. That gives me peace.
Peaceful Sunset Photograph by Suzanne Lorenz
My gratitude goes to my good friend Fiona Lehn, artist, musician, writer, truth seeker and courageous human being.
Thanks Fiona, always continue.