Politicians, particularly those approaching the end of their time in power, tend to focus on legacy. The Monroe Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the Third Way are all examples of attempts to leave behind something tangible. They are the fenceposts to which administrations and existences can be tethered, held fast by a conviction that time and lives were spent in the service of something greater than themselves.
A wish to reach beyond our own mortality is not limited to politicians. There remains in Britain those in thrall to the idea of empire, whether that empire encompasses retail, crime, or the military. Such behemoths remain after their creators cease to exist – testament to visions and abilities that could not be constrained by mortal bodies, bursting free of flesh and blood and racing around the globe on trade winds and ambition.
Perhaps the most thought-provoking legacies, however, are those that are never intended to serve as such. As television historians tell us, often it is civilisations’ rubbish which provides the most interesting insights – objects and artifacts that were never meant to see the light of day. The cave paintings at Lascaux or the Dead Sea Scrolls were not ostentatious; the weight of their legacy was self-evident. One wonders what detritus we will leave for our descendants. Abandoned blogs, testaments to once-smouldering ambitions, silent vessels for what were no doubt mordant observations or inciteful comment? Will our future selves be on hands and knees, gently brushing granular data from dusty websites and long-abandoned Twitter feeds?
Maybe there is something to be said for the humble gravestone. Unassuming and reserved, gravestones are the footnotes of lives – available for the interested reader but not necessary to enjoy the main narrative. There is also a peaceful self-awareness about carved stone, an acceptance that in most cases those grieving will themselves succumb to the inevitability of time, and that the inscriptions above the unkempt grass will cease to hold the meanings they once did. Moss will gather on chipped stone whilst sand will collect in the worn lettering. Hundreds of frosts will creep across the granite, their delicate fingers probing into widening crevices until the stony edifice, having fulfilled its purpose, crumbles underneath the yews.
Rest in peace, after all.
*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.*
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order.