No Legacy is so Rich as Honesty

I have been struggling lately trying to find topics I could write about that I find engaging or inspiring. I have to feel passionate about the subject of my writing or else how can I possibly reach out to anyone reading my words? After all, whilst writing is for me primarily an escape valve for pain, frustrations and hopes, I also write because I have always felt this innate need to connect with other people on a much deeper level; to feel a ‘spiritual’ bond with like-minded individuals whose journey of discovery resonates with mine. Sharing how we truly feel and opening ourselves up to debate and being mighty challenged in our deeply rooted principles is the best way to avoid blind spots or prevent oneself from falling into tunnel vision. Truth and revelation is what I seek, not ego-stroking or adulation.

So this morning I was looking at some quotes and this quote by William Shakespeare really caught my attention. ‘No legacy is so rich as honesty’. A whole life could be summed up in those words. At a first glance, it would seem like a very tempting epitaph that looks impressive, but does not tell us much about a specific person, and yet on close inspection, the implications and consequences of a life lived with honesty with others and specially with ourselves, are infinite and forever transformative.

I often feel purposeless these days. Middle-aged woman whose two children have or are soon flying the nest. A job I fell into by life’s funny twists and turns, which far from fulfills me, but helps realize another person’s dream and in turn allows us to support other people’s dreams who are not as fortunate and privileged as we are. A love for writing that cannot be materialised because in order to do it justice and give it its best chance, I would have to drop everything and live solely for myself, neglecting the needs and hopes of those around me. Some people are able to do that, but as much as I would like to be that ruthless, I simply can’t do it. It is not how I am wired, and what is the point of pursuing the dream, if in doing so your dream becomes a nightmare because you are consumed with the guilt of having trampled upon all you have built up to that point; in doing so you trample upon the dreams and hopes of those who have been entrusted to you? I believe in the power of bringing life into this world, but I also firmly believe that with that miracle comes a huge responsibility that never goes away, should never go away. It blows my mind to think that a part of us lives on forever through those who come after us. If you are a parent, you will know what I am talking about; how there is so much of ourselves in our children that when we die, our soul truly goes on, our spirit lives on in the legacy we have left with every example, lesson, instruction, caution, warning, encouragement, wisdom, every single word we ever uttered to our children, but not just to them, to every other human being we ever came into contact with. Every single action we take or do not take, every word we say or don’t say, affects the outcome of a much bigger reality.

It does make me feel really down at times to think that I spent the first half of my life veering towards a goal, the exploration and perfecting of a passion, a gift, a calling, and the other half neglecting that innermost need and revelation of who I am supposed to be. And yet, a quote like this reminds me that we don’t live alone in this world. Life is not about me, myself and I as much as society, trends and culture today try to convince us that we are. We are inexplicably but undeniably connected to each other, generations past, present and yet to come. Humanity is a mind-boggling concept that can only be comprehended when we see it as an atomic force that only has meaning when seen as the sum of each and every single part, not when we consider each individual and their legacy in isolation. Each person’s legacy is achieved thanks to the example, knowledge and sacrifice of someone else. None of us act alone in this world, not really. We have a debt of gratitude to ‘what’ brought us into being, we have a duty I feel to honour that.

Perhaps my egotistic desire to realise my hopes and dreams was misplaced all along. Perhaps that constant feeling of frustration for hopes deferred is not due to my soul feeling incomplete because I have not reached my purpose, but rather friction in my life continues because I am not willing to accept that indeed the richest legacy I can leave behind is honesty: truly looking within and accepting that despite my dreams of a grandiose materialised potential, be it professionally, as a member of society, a lover, a friend, the simple but painful truth lies in accepting I am just another human being whose significance and value lies simply in passing on to my children the very heavy baton of understanding that we never travel alone, and we therefore, whether we like it or not, have a responsibility not just to ourselves but each other to fulfill our purpose, yes, but never forgetting that the choices we make exponentially condition the choices of others, and that we can afford such choices only because others before us were honest and humble enough to accept that a chain only has unbreakable, limitless power when every link remains deeply interlinked to another.

I can only make sense of humanity as a collective whose parts are of equal value, share equal dignity and potential. It is painful accepting that I am not the protagonist of my own story, but when were truth and honesty that palatable? People often talk about not wanting to have any regrets when they come to the end of their life. Well, I believe every single human being will have some regret at the end, because none of us have it all figured out when we start or even half way through this journey, so inevitably we will come to the end still doubting some of our choices, wishing we made others. Given that premise that we all die with some regrets, I don’t want to look back on my life and only see a Narcissus staring at its own reflection on the water, being so caught up in its own radiance that she misses out on the bigger picture, the bigger purpose and meaning of it all, whatever that is.

Prophets of doom or Visionaries?

The world is suffering from a hopeless case of unaccountability. For such an ancient world, there is today more than ever a distinct reluctance to grow up, both on an individual and collective basis, it seems.

I started noticing this years ago, when I first joined social media and expressed my views on various subjects. The onslaught that often followed every time I expressed a personal view on a given subject, was sinister to say the least, utterly unjustified, and frankly terrifying. Not being able to express an opinion on a controversial subject is regrettable, but to not be able to say what you honestly think in a democratic country which by definition prides itself in freedom of expression amongst other rights, is clearly the symptom of grave maladies sending our world into a spiral of self destruction: egotism, greed, deception, manipulation, to name but a few.

Our obsession with self drives us blindly to focus all our negativity, self loathing and feelings of failure towards another, based on a difference of opinion. We are willing to vilify a human being and put their character and integrity into question, even though we have never met that person ever; even though we know nothing about that person other than what we glean from their digital print. It’s hardly consistent evidence to base a person’s epitaph on or even dictate their death sentence, digitally speaking.

I have asked myself this same question over and over. What is so very dark in a human heart that when another person’s argument touches a raw nerve, they’d rather destroy that person’s credibility without giving their argument a moment’s thought, than actually have the courage to engage in self-introspection and get to the bottom of why their argument has unnerved them. It seems obvious to me on a personal as well as global level that nearly always, those viciously attacking another as a result of an opinion expressed, are cowardly ‘shooting’ the messenger rather than having the maturity to heed the message, or at least consider it. They are terrified of looking in the mirror to acknowledge flaws; they love themselves too much or as it turns out not enough to face head on their demons, to question their deeply rooted convictions. To do so would mean rocking the boat of their own credibility, self-assuredness; in essence questioning the very essence of who they are and how they live. Life is tough enough as it is, right, so why rock the boat? Much quicker, easier and less effort to trample on anyone who wants to make me accountable for my choices, even when those choices have dire consequences on others who were never given a choice.

Personal growth has reached a new stalemate in this ‘modern’ era of tribalism. ‘Think as I do or be destroyed’ is the new motto for so many today. Character assassination on social media is the new ‘terrorism’. ‘Say as I say or disappear’ is the new standard of righteousness. The defining lines of ethics and morality are at an all time high of blurriness.

Now, take this increasingly common behavioral pattern on social media and scale it up worldwide and to other areas of society such as religion, politics, the natural world. What do you have? An existential crisis of biblical proportions; the end of our world as we know it.

Take for example Greta Thunberg. Thousands of people around the world, mostly scientists, meteorologists, environmentalists, experts in all the relevant subjects have agreed for a long time now that global warming exists and that we are on a path of self-destruction. Even though there is no agreement as to when this may happen, there is consensus in the fact that to continue living as we do is not sustainable in the long-term. What do we do? Anyone and everyone who feels challenged by the argument put forward by Greta and the fact that finally, she has got us all talking and thinking about global warming and the risks involved, feels entitled to embark personally on her character assassination, on discrediting her, shaming her, insulting her. Some are prepared to do anything and I mean anything, in order to divert the focus away from a vital message and focus instead solely on the credibility of the messenger.

We shouldn’t care how old she is. We shouldn’t care whether her parents or anyone else is manipulating her or not, and most certainly, we should be ashamed of ourselves for putting into question her worth as a human being or her potential as a catalyst for urgently needed change, based on the fact that she has Asperger’s. I have read some horrendous attacks directed at her because of her disorder. I have a son with Asperger’s and I can tell you that what he lacks in certain aspects, he more than makes up for in others. He is an exceptional human being and his outlook on things often blows my mind. Like any other human being, he is deficient in certain areas but excels in others. Asperger’s individuals are no worse than anyone else. They are simply different, and being different has to be celebrated and not vilified. Otherwise, our world will stagnate and eventually everything in it will perish. We step on very shaky ground when we dismiss another human being and what they have to say because of their health, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation or race. But more alarmingly, we lose ourselves and our humanity when we make it our life’s goal to destroy another human being because they think different than we do. The real tragedy here is that in denying the validity of a message by shooting its messenger, we are denying ourselves room for growth, personal fulfillment and we are shooting ourselves in the head also by obsessing with always being right, instead of humbling ourselves and accepting that this world’s only chance of survival is changing our motto from ‘them and us’ to ‘together we can’.