“Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
Quote #12 of 16 in the series, 16 Principles of Happiness from the 16th President
Loss and decay can be devastating. The idea of the immortal, of eternal growth and eternal joy can help offset the angst and anger and utter despair of loss.
The hope of a better place, that death is less the finality of the last period at the end of the last sentence on the last page of a book and more an ellipses, a gap between volumes of a never-ending series by an eternal author, can help soften the blow of the loss of a loved one or the uncomfortable ring-side view of our own slow decay.
But what if you don’t believe in things like Heaven and resurrection and eternal life?
It can be a very distressing proposition that after 60 or 80 years of a life, everything will come to a sudden and abrupt stop. The notion that all that was done over the course of a lifetime, all that was built, all the struggles and trials, the love and relationships, a lifetime of living, is suddenly over. Very depressing stuff!
Hope for the Non-Believer!
While the believer certainly has a coping advantage here with the expectation of renewal and reunion, believer and non-believers alike can also experience some peace in death by the sense that their lives will, in some fashion, continue in other ways after death. There can then be the feeling that the finality of the period that comes at the end of life is, in some sense, an ellipsis of a different sort.
In other words, even if there were no Heaven, there could still be a kind of immortality that can offer a sense of peace despite the inevitable end of life.
Immortality can be achieved by leaving a legacy of meaning and purpose and significance as a gift to those you leave behind.
It is a gift that keeps giving long after you pass on. That legacy can be accentuated and formalized, thereby ensuring a lasting impact, in a variety of ways, your creativity and motivation being the only obstacles to that enduring legacy.
5 Ways to Leave an Enduring Legacy
1. Raise children of character and purpose. Their lives will radiate the principles you stood for, the character you achieved, the passion that drove you, the love and compassion you filled your life and theirs and others’ with. Your influence on them will be lived on in the lives they impact, who will impact yet other lives. In that sense you will live on indefinitely.
2. Start a business. Build and grow your business until you feel the economic advantage to incorporate is strong enough to outweigh the disadvantages. Then, when you are gone, the company will live on as a sort of Colonel Sanders or Sam Walton tribute to the life you led and the jobs and goods and services you provided. The perpetual life of a corporation will also have a perpetuating effect of the role you played in providing people with value and opportunity on into the foreseeable future.
3. Establish a non-profit foundation to service a cause you care about. I have a friend who started a non-profit that does work among the poor in Venezuela in the area of education. This way, the work you begin and the good you do can extend far past the very mortal life you live.
4. Write a book. If you write it well and on a topic for which you have knowledge and passion, it can become the legacy that immortalizes you and your thoughts and influence. Just think of people like Shakespeare, or more recently, Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking, for instance. They will likely never truly die, even if their bones never amounted to anything more than worm food.
5. Keep a journal. Create a record of your thoughts and experiences, your hopes and aspirations and your mistakes and failures. Poignant life events that are passed on to following generations can cement the lessons learned from them in the lives of those who follow. Let who you are come out in your writing. What lessons would you most want to share with your grandchildren or with theirs? What lessons would most help them live a happy life? You can become a source of wisdom and strength to future generations, thereby extending your life beyond mortality.
By taking action on any one or more from this list, you can have more satisfaction and joy in the idea that the good life you are living will continue. You can experience a settling peace, even in the prospect of loss, in knowing that the life you created can continue by proxy through the legacy you leave behind. That legacy will then continue to provide rich meaning to others’ lives in ways that will long outlive your physical body.
And that, my believing and non-believing friend alike, is happiness writ large.
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What else can establish the sort of immortality referred to above?
It would mean a lot to me if you would add your thoughts in the comments!
Now, go work on your legacy!
Click on any of the posts in this series for further reading:
- 16 Principles of Happiness from the 16th President
- We’ve Seen Lincoln on the Penny; Now let’s hear him on Happiness!
- Tearing Down and Building Up: Envy and Success
- There’s More than One Way to Live Forever … Leaving a Legacy
- 5 Enslaving Habits We Must Avoid
- 10 Practical Ways to Develop Self-mastery
- You Have To Do Your Own Growing No Matter how Tall Your Grandfather Was
- 10 Ways You Too Can Stop Being So EASILY Offended
- A House Divided is Happiness Diminished