Legacy.

In recent years, I have heard a lot of this word.  We hear of “legacy software”.  Presidents are concerned about their legacy. Video games, movies, and comic books all use the word. This word has been overused and trivialized. It has almost lost its meaning and its impact.

One of Webster’s definitions is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

Personally, I like to think of a legacy as one of two things. I see it as a character trai  learned from an ancestor. I also see it as a gift from an ancestor. I have been doing a lot of pondering on the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren. I have realized that the legacy I want to leave may have nothing to do with the legacy I will leave. I may have a desire to do one thing, but the result has the potential to be very different. This is the fear that drives presidents and other world leaders, in their attempt to change how future generations will view them, to hire publicists and journalists to try and shape the history books before they are written. Unfortunately, it often works, but that just further cheapens the word.
Character Traits Learned from an Ancestor
The character traits I desire to leave my children and grandchildren are faith and fulfillment. I have written many times in my articles that I have a strong Christian faith. I know that my children cannot have my faith in them; they need their own. My desire, as Saint Francis of Assisi likely said, is to “preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” I want to show them how my faith has profoundly affected my life for the good. I want to be such an example that they will, at a minimum, be curious about my faith. I will use words, of course, but “faith without works is dead.” I cringe at the parents who say, “do as I say, not as I do.” That has dangerous and often depressing consequences.  I have written extensively on my own seeking for fulfillment in this life in my series of articles on the Myth of the Perfect Job. I hope to help guide them toward finding their own happy and fulfilled life.
Gifts from an Ancestor
The gift most people think of inheriting from an ancestor is money. Cash in the bank. I am actually very nervous about leaving my children large sums of money. I admit that I would love to be able to provide for all their needs, but money may not be the best way to do this. Many times, an inheritance of money is not used to provide for needs, but for wants and desires. These wants and desires are often shallow and fleeting. I can think of a number of “trust fund” kids who have never learned the value of work. The value of saving. The value of waiting. The value of anticipation and the motivation it provides. The sense of accomplishment when the work and saving and waiting culminated in meeting the goal set before them. Or the wisdom in realizing that there is often more joy in the process than in its end. So, no, the legacy I leave to my descendants will not be a large sum of money.
There is one gift I want to leave my descendants, and that is what I call a tangible vision in progress. This is not a formal title, and it may change if I come up with something better, but this is what I am calling it for now. To explain what this is, let me back up a bit and describe a significant change in my thinking that has occured in the last few months.

In an attempt at humor, I have many times told people that I need ten lifetimes to accomplish everything I want to do in this life. Recently, I have been struck by the reality of this statement. I honestly do not have the time to do everything that I want to do before I die. Many of the things I want to create will take so long to develop that by the time it is manifest, my grandchildren may not be alive any longer. For some time, I was quite frustrated by this; however, as of late, I have found significant peace with this. In fact, I am a little excited about it.

Expanding Horizon View
You see, my horizon has shifted. It has expanded. I used to look at an end point of ten, twenty, or maybe forty years in the future. I would tally all the things I wanted to accomplish, then consider how much time I had left to complete these projects. If I considered where I was in life, I would feel a bit defeated. I had joined the military to pay for medical school, and I had a lot of time remained on my committment. My Permaculture awakening occured in bits and pieces over the last decade, but I was on a track I could not easily drive off. All the things I now wanted to accomplish, getting land, starting a farm, teaching Permaculture, raising my and my family’s food… it all had to wait until I was done with the military. I would consider a food forest and the trees planted within it. Many of the large nut trees may not even start producing nuts for twenty years, and some may take fifty years! I would never see the results of all my labor since I would be starting so late in the game.

I will readily admit that it has been very hard for me to wait to start something that I am so passionate about. It is part of the reason I created this website. But, as in everything, the problem is the solution! I have been given the unique opportunity to study Permaculture for over a decade without getting to implement it on a large scale. And I do mean study. I read and think and sketch and analyze and ponder and write about Permaculture every day. For over ten years. That is a lot of time to come to a deep understanding of a thing. I am well beyond ready to get my hands dirty, so to speak, but what an opportunity! I have been able to travel across multiple continents with this knowledge in my head, seeing how local and indigenous people farm and raise food and build homes and meet their daily needs. I have been confined to being an observer, and I have learned a lot.

I have also matured in my mindset of Permaculture. This is such a blessing. I have read of many people, who did what I wanted to do. They were infected with Permaculture and then ran with it. They got some land and starting planting trees and doing things. I am still jealous of that. However, I now know that many of these people look back and wish they had a deeper understanding before they jumped in. They would have planted those trees over there, but now they are 10 years old, and moving them is nigh impossible. They would have placed the pond up there, but they can’t move it now. They would have build the house down there, but that is not really possible now. I have been able to learn from their mistakes without making my own… yet. But I long to make my own mistakes, a lot of them, but hopefully not too large. Also, like most people, when I was first exposed to Permaculture, I thought it was just a unique way to garden. I thought it was all about food. And it is, but it is so much deeper than that. It involves communities, businesses, countries, regions, and the world as a whole. This is so exciting, but I never understood this or its practical implications early on.

An Exciting Future
Of course, I have no idea what the future holds. The government could take everything I build and install a highway. An asteroid may fall from the sky and destroy the Earth. I may have only a single grandchild who, out of desperation, sells everything for a few dollars. Who knows? Anything is possible. But I will still move forward with a multi-generational focus. I will plan for one possible future, start to implement it by creating tangible elements (swales, ponds, forests, structures, etc.), and then teach my children and grandchildren how to maintain it and mold it as they see fit. I know that my design is just a starting point and what will eventually unfold in fifty or one hundred years is going to be drastically different, but maybe not. Maybe the nut trees I plant will provide food to finish high quality hogs of a breed I developed. Maybe the ponds I build will provide fish dinners for my great grandchildren. Maybe the forest I plant will be a magical place to hunt mushroms for my great-great grandchildren.

Things have changed. My horizon is now fifty to one hundred years in the future, sometimes even a lot further. I see the future with new eyes. I now see that I am given a unique opportunity. I will be able to design a project that may last for hundreds or even thousands of years. I have the ability to lay the groundwork for something which will be benefiting people many generations in the future. In the more immediate future, my children and grandchildren will have something that truly meets their needs, and it may just provide many of their desires and wants. It will be something of real value, not just a pile of cash. It will be a true legacy.

I think of the possibilities that await for my descendants and their peers, all because of the work that I and people like me will do, I am so excited. Let us build the foundation so that our children may have peace.

 

Subscribe to TCPermaculture.com and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

Photo References:

  • http://jcwinnie.biz/wordpress/imageSnag/4_24_2007leafwater.jpg