For most of my life, I have wondered what I would pass on to future generations. Would I leave a legacy for my descendants to feel proud of? Would I have my picture in textbooks that kids would study someday? Would I be some “important figure in history”? Would I write a song that people would sing for many years to come? Write a book maybe? Or would I take solace as I approached my inevitable death, with the comforting thought that my life would live on in the memories of others, that I would have helped people and made the world a better place somehow?
Many times, I admit, I nursed a secret hope that my many years of filling up many journals of scribbled thoughts would somehow be “discovered” in some distant future, in some dusty attic, and some fascinated person would delve deeply into the mysteries of my mind and publish my “life’s work,” and I would be celebrated posthumously as some kind of genius, or at least, cool dude.
At the very least, I hoped that I would have a good impact on other people, would help to open some hearts to wisdom, would help to enliven some minds to fascination, would help to make contagious some of my most heartfelt passions, from Pink Floyd, to trees, to the silent beauty of a canoe on a misty morning lake. Or if nothing else, stories would linger long after my passing, of the fact that I laughed too loud, often at my own jokes, or that I told good stories in a class someone took once, or that I was there for somebody once when they needed a friend. Or at least that I kept trying, even when things were hard.
Many times, I’ve wondered what I would pass on, what my own life’s opus would be.
And now I see things differently.
I see that the future may not exist for my descendants, for music lovers or canoe enthusiasts. There may well be no people to dig my old notebooks out of an attic someday, no people who are able to read them or are even remotely interested in doing so. There may well be no people, even. No songs. No stories.
I’ve resisted this thought for the past fifteen years or so that it’s been nudging me. What good does “doom and gloom” do, anyway?
But that thought is becoming more and more real every month, every day, with every extinction I read about, every fire that burns another neighbourhood, every “tipping point” my global Home passes on its accelerating slide into inhuman chaos. I watch the lovers of this world band together, march and sing together, cry and create together, and when I can, I march and sing and cry and create with them.
Then I watch the….others….of this world band together, shout and shoot together, teargas and club together, and I prepare my heart for the time when I am in the right place at the right time, and it’s my turn to be fed to the all-consuming maw of greed and hate and tyranny, just so the powerful few can squeeze a last few morsels of goodness from our dying Mother before even they fall to the chaos they’ve unleashed.
I hold onto hope, that the rebellions of the present and the near-future will be enough to change our course. That “Star Trek” is still possible and humanity’s greatest moment of crisis will finally, finally be its collective awakening. I hold onto that hope when it becomes difficult to tell the difference between my nightmares and the day.
But, what IF hope is lost? What IF we lose this fight? What IF fire overcomes tears, bullets overcome songs, clubs and fists overcome children and grandparents, and chemicals that are immiscible with Life, overcome the birds and the bees? What IF?
Dear Ancestors, thank you for this chance you’ve given me, to live. For the songs you passed on. The babies you nursed at your breasts, taught to walk, and speak, and play, and fish, and build, and love, and read, and forgive. Thank you for your courage, the sacrifices you made in the wars of your time. The wisdom you discovered in silent meditation. The poems. The traditions, dances, beautiful creations of art and worship. Thank you for the recipes you passed down through generations of care-takers labouring over hot stoves, for the endless mouth-watering concoctions we coaxed from the abundance of water and soil and sunlight. Thank you for the luminaries who inspired all who came after, to strive for the Good, to love unto death.
Thank you for your own struggles against oppression, against tyranny, against the bastardization of spirit and faith into institutionalized hierarchies. Thank you for your inspiration, your ideas of equality, of overcoming prejudice and fear of “the other,” for your examples of community and family. Thank you that we reached, for a glorious few moments as a species, the space outside of our little sphere so that we could look back on it and see it for the shining jewel that it is. This home in which we, truly, are all one. Thank you for the stories. And laughter.
There may be no descendants to whom we can pass your love. But I can pass it back, to you. I know you’re still here. I know I am you, and your eyes still see through my own. I know your hearts break when mine does, and so, I hope I can comfort you, with my gratitude. What you passed on, was not without value. Even though it may end sooner than it should, what you passed on was invaluable. It gave me a life and the trillion myriad joys, and sorrows, that provide life with meaning, and beauty.
Dear Ancestors, thank you.