By Karl Arnold Belser
18 May 2014

I am 74 and I wonder whether I will leave a legacy.. Maybe my ego is speaking, but I want to discuss legacy in order to free my mind to think about other things.

I just returned from a trip to Europe in which I visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam.  This museum is today the most visited museum in Amsterdam and Anne Frank left an important legacy with her diary

Anne died in a German WW2 concentration camp shortly before the camp was liberated by the Allies, and Anne's father promoted the diary to the importance that it has today. I personally think that the museum is a brilliant deterrent to fascist ideas that involved persecution of the Jews. Anne left a legacy but received no recognition in her lifetime. 

Could it be that legacy only happens by luck after a person dies?

I immediately thought about Jesus Christ, who has left a legacy of importance. I asked one of my Christian friends about who promoted Christ and Christianity after Jesus' death. He referred me to ACTS in the Bible in which Luke recounts how the apostle Peter gave the apostle Paul the mission to promote Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Paul was a Roman citizen and a sophisticated jungle fighter, who was able to argue his case up to Caesar. Here again is a case where another person promotes the case of a person who has died. 

The Biblical account certainly was told from the point of view of promoting Christianity. This can be contrasted with the Roman point of view put froward by Anatole France in his short story The Procurator of Judea. This story shows that the story of Jesus was not well known at the time that Paul was selling Christianity.

I remember reading in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in which, as i recall, he points out that each living thing on earth does what it does without any idea of fame or reward.  

(Vook X Section 8) Rememberest the gods, and that they wish not to be flattered, but wish all reasonable beings to be made like themselves; and... rememberest that what does the work of a fig-tree is a fig-tree, and that what does the work of a dog is a dog, and that what does the work of a bee is a bee, and that what does the work of a man is a man.

in fact Marcus Aurelius did not intend that what he wrote would be his legacy. These were his notes in his quest for self-improvement. He was basically saying that one should do what one thinks is right and let the future people decide if the work is of importance.

I interpret the Meditations as well as the experience of Anne Frank as an imperative not to worry whether or not I leave a legacy. I will just continue to do what I think is right to do.
Last updated May 22, 2014
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