Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Hundred Years From Now

I'm late! Jet-lagged from the trip. And, I'm afraid, here to talk about monuments.

But first, from last week, the "assignment" was a vacation (because I really, really, really needed a vacation after the events of the past 2 years), the location was London (which ya'll figured out!) and the picture posted of the Sherlock Holmes tiles was underground at the Baker Street subway stop. The "mind the gap" was what we heard each time we got on or off the subway train--a reminder that there's a gap between the car and the platform and to watch your step!

So. Monuments. There are a lot of them in London. There are statues and plaques and buildings and, well, designations everywhere. Compared to anywhere in the USA, London is old. London has centuries of history, and the landmarks to prove it. But what struck me is that monuments and designations are just delays in the inevitable.

People move on.

People no longer care.

The old eventually gets swallowed up by the new.

Everyone still knows the iconic Sherlock...but Hollywood has kept younger people caring with movies. But this figure? I was excited to see it, but how many people under 25 know who this monument is for?

What drove this home was an old church we happened by as we walked through Soho. We could see it through a section of old iron fencing, but it wasn't visible otherwise because the new buildings erected all around it were so much taller and were positioned so close to it. Tall, modern buildings dwarfed and obscured what was once (I'm sure) the jewel of the neighborhood. And in the narrow strip of land between the fence and the church was a stone-carved plaque to some deacon who had served at the church for nearly 50 years, like, 100 years ago. He must've been some revered and respected leader, but at this point, does anyone know who he is? Does anyone really care?

No one likes to think of themselves as being gone when they die. When I was a kid, people would talk about novelists' books living on for them. I didn't aspire to being a novelist, so that seemed like a futile route to me. And, as it turns out, it is. Most of us have never even heard of the best-selling books from a hundred years ago, let alone read any of them.

The movie industry definitely promotes the delusion of life-ever-after, summed up by Fame: "I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly, I feel it comin' together, people will see me and cry. I'm gonna make it to heaven, light up the sky like a flame, I'm gonna live forever, baby remember my name."

Well, no. You're not. You're going to be out with the next season's wave of stars and probably wind up turning to drugs and alcohol and die before you would have if you hadn't been obsessed with fame and living on forever.

People ask me what I want my legacy to be. I have a really good body of work that I'm proud of, but I don't need or want a statue or a landmark or a movie about my life, and I don't expect to be remembered a hundred years from now. This isn't meant to be depressing. On the contrary, I think this is healthy (and realistic). I think recognizing the value of your presence is very much life-affirming. Knowing that today is what matters and that the interactions we have now are what's important helps keep the focus on life, instead of legacy. It also levels the playing field. The way I see it, the only legacy that really matters for any of us--famous or not--is how we treated people day to day while we were alive. I plan to keep focusing on that.


Wild About Words said...

Well said, Wendelin. Today -- this moment -- is what matters. Being kind. Being present. Being.

Thanks for the wise words,

Michael said...

Agatha Christie! I love her but have never seen the monument in England! Oy! I need to go back again to see it. Love her books; she was amazingly prolific. Thanks for the good commentary.

Gabrielle said...

You are right,Wendelin. And as I was reading this I thought when I die,all I would really want is the people who cared about me and made my life great to really remember me.


Jessica said...

I think the little things we do today are our legacy, even if we never know it. Think of all the people who have influenced your way of thinking or viewing the world -- how many of them did you actually let know they made a lasting impact on you? Often I don't even realize the impact someone else has had on me until months or years later. Occasionally, I've brought it up, and the other person is usually "Really? I said that? I don't remember." It happens the other way, too, where someone will remind me of something I said to them, but I don't remember.

I think your impact is even greater when you're a teacher or a writer, because you touch so many more lives, especially in their "formative" years. Perhaps no one now has ever heard of that mystery writer who inspired Agatha Christie, but without that author, we never would have had Hercules Poirot or Miss Marple or the world's longest-running play. And so Agatha Christie is part of that author's legacy, even if no one knows it.

I think you're right, though, that you can't try to create a legacy. If you're trying, you'll be too removed from the present, and you won't have any impact. Today's the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. At the consecration of the cemetery, Lincoln's remarks were just a short, official dedication -- he wasn't the main speaker. He wasn't thinking of legacy; he even said, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." But he created legacy by capturing the emotion of the present.

Ryan said...

OMG--I would totally love to see a statue of you. That would be hilarious! =) Even if it's just made out of butter and won't last very long, I think a statue of you would be great! =)

-- Ryan

Kylie said...

I am obsessed with books and I hate the fact that there were so many books that all the copies have been destroyed. Some many stories that have been worth reading, that can't be read any more. It makes me think what books of this time period are going to last years? What books are going to turn into required reading at schools? What books will people hold on to and treasure?

I hope you had fun in London! You definitely deserved the vacation.

What you said really started me thinking. Do I want people to remember me when I die? And if so what for? And who?

There are people that never will be forgotten. William Shakespeare, George Washington, Susan B. Anthony. And these people did great things. But will I be able to achieve as much as they did? More than likely not. But I still will be remember. At least for a little while. By my friends and family. By those who's lives I have impacted. And I guess a little while is more than I can want.


Yusa said...

Wise words... i really have not a lot to say. I agree with everything.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Okay, we have potential for fun here. Ryan started it with his butter statue comment. But maybe not of me. How about Sammy? What would be a good statue of Sammy? Funny is good, so have fun :-)

Unknown said...

omg sammy's statue could be like the softball statue that the mayor loves so much :) ridiculous... haha :)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

PS Some great comments again this week. Love this crew.

Jessica said...

When I was in Ireland, I was also overwhelmed by the length of the history. Growing up in Virginia, the oldest buildings I'd ever been in were only ~400 years old. But in Ireland I went inside buildings and monuments as old as the Egyptian pyramids! It was crazy. And they had monuments to everything. There was a little strip of beach, and it had a giant sign announcing it was the site where "Ryan's Daughter" had been filmed. Then we passed a teensy marker flat on the ground at a carpark at a scenic overlook, and it had only a year and "Spanish Armada."

Sammy's statue: I could see her parents throwing a ridiculous birthday bash and getting an ice sculpture of her. Lady Lana would try to have her in a skirt and hairbows, but hopefully Grams and (is her father still he-who-shall-not-be-named?) would make sure she was in high tops and ponytail, popping an ollie on her skateboard, with a pair of binoculars around her neck. And Officer Borsch chasing her down for jayskating.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

An ice statue! You have no idea how appropriate that is! And I love the idea :-) Very (uh-hm) cool!

Kylie said...

"An ice statue! You have no idea how appropriate that is!" Wait are you foreshadowing something? Now my mind is running with what that could be.

A Sammy statue should totally be made out of raw mac-n-cheese noodles and she should have one hand holding her skateboard up and in the other hand holding a bat or shovel across her shoulder.

Unknown said...

Happy 4th of July Everyone!!!!!=)
Jessica and Kylie that is SO funny, i was really brainstorming ideas for statues, and I came up of both of those!! Except not the ice statue, I was thinking the binoculars around her neck, but it really could be anything like a toaster, or a carrot, or a small black book, or a bag of EZ-CRETE... =) anything she used as a weapon, or what gave her a shock of understanding, or just had to do with the mystery that you would only TRULY understand if you read the book, and there is one in every book,although not all of them would be good with a statue, like sammy wearing a glove and holding a bone away from her ;)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Macaroni Sammy! Birds would love it!

And Bella, yes, lots of weapons :-)

Maybe her foot positioned on the bag of EZ-Crete :-)

Karen said...

Welcome back! I hope you had a good (and restful) time!

No idea how appropriate the ice statue is, hmm? This wouldn’t have anything to do with the heiress who disappears during Killer Cruise, would it?

(...Do she and Sammy and Heather all share the same birthday? What kind of a mess that would be!)

I was thinking Sammy’s statue should be of her on her skateboard with her hair blowing back and a big grin on her face, like that scene in Art of Deception when she finally gets her skateboard back.

But then I was thinking more along the lines of a statue that could, in real life, be placed along the winding sidewalk bordering the “Santa Martina” Town Center Mall parking lots--the in-universe statue ideas are much more fun. :-)

Yusa said...

I was thinking about a macaroni sculpture also Kylie! :)
With the salsa of course... :P

MarqueeMovies said...

Your comment about the history of England being everywhere reminds me of the Martin Mull story. He said that he was in England years ago, during his drinking days, and he asked his driver to take him to a pub, even though it was still morning. They pulled up in front of a building, and Martin Mull looked at it and said, "Well, I can't go in yet. It says it doesn't open until 11:30." The driver replied, "No, sir, that's when it was built."

Gabrielle said...

This is really of topic but I think Joel Courtny would be a good Casey. And I'm loving these comments!!


Caradith Craven said...

Love the blog and the fun, creative comments. I'm contemplating the statue/legacy idea versus the living in the moment and treating others with respect and kindness concept. The latter has my vote for how I will honor this spunky, "turn wrongs into rights" Sammy girl. The next time I have the opportunity...I will perform a random act of kindness and, perhaps, even take a risk to make a positive change in my little corner of the world. I will do it with Sammy and the person who created her in my thoughts. I am also hoping for a screen adaptation of the series to bring Sammy and friends to life for devoted fans and a brand new audience that will then want to read the books.

Yusa said...

GAbrielle: yeah i think he would also! The only thing is he might be too old.

Kylie said...

Yusa: Of course we need salsa with it!

Remeber when in like kindergarten when you made Just about any crafts with noodles? I can picture Sammy making Lana a macaroni sculpture of Lana.

Karen said...

Awww, macaroni sculpture of Lana, adorable. (Somehow I think Sammy wouldn’t have been patient enough to make a very obvious likeness, but Lana would love it anyway.)

Sammy’s foot on a bag of EZ-CRETE, I love it! And she could be raising a Double Dynamo like a torch, and ... holding her skateboard under one arm? (I thought about having the Dome of Dryness at her side like a sword and the carrot like a dagger, but that doesn’t seem very “Sammy.”) And maybe Officer Borsch’s wedding ring handcuffed to her bridesmaid bracelet?

And of course her high-top has to have the horseshoe laced on.

A pirate bandanna sticking out of her back pocket!

Actually, I could see this happening in-universe, them clowning around acting like parodies of “founding father” statues. ;-)