Maybe I watch too many science fiction movies, but it seems to me that whenever there is a great character in a Sci-Fi movie they never really die. In Tron, Kevin Flynn kind of disappears, in the Matrix, Neo basically evaporates, and in Transcendence, Dr. Will Caster, played by Johnny Depp just kind of gets shut down, but it is not like there is finality to it. Besides the obvious eluding to deity narratives there is something more.
In contemporary culture we often say “they are in a better place now” when someone dies. And whether this is the Christian heaven or Buddha’s nirvana the after life is almost always seen as a reward for good behavior. In the aforementioned cases they are the end of suffering and leave us in a domain of infinite happiness.
But there are examples of figures who live on past their biological lives even in the everyday world. We call these people legends. It has been nearly 40 years since the passing of Bruce Lee but he is no less of a household name today than he was twenty years ago. Among him could be named other legends like Michael Jackson, Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and Princess Diana. These great figures are still very much alive and well in the zeitgeist but there is an element of mysticism added to their legacy now since they are not longer here to contribute it it.
It makes me if they are actually dead or if they have just escaped their bodies. Trent Thomas has a famous quote that goes “The only guarantee in life is death, but the only thing worse is to be forgotten.” With the legacy of these legends so vibrant and intact can we say that they are dead?
Siddhartha Gautama embarked on a journey for what we might call enlightenment. It is the most nobel of quests, to end the cycle of death and suffering by removing all earthly desires from his spirit, even the will to live. Could we see this as some form of insanity? The idea that all of your desires are in some way another a source of pain, would mean that your life it self is the source of some fear and therefor pain, so to remove yourself from this cycle would be to end your life. But now we see that his journey has resulted in a living legacy from which 500 Million people follow his teachings. Would it be worth it to you to sacrifice you own life to live on in the hearts of a 16th of the planet for hundreds of years?
Would this quest for legendary status be out of vanity, fear, or the authentic desire to reach optimal fulfillment as a human being?
Along the way significant sacrifice will be needed. Each of these legends has had to take up unconventional behavior in their discipline, or practice , or of kindness to become unforgettable, and along the way this may not have always been an asset.
This abstract thinking moves us from the most relatable, and tangible of goals to a place that is much harder to measure. Just as in art success is more difficult to recognize when not focused around a realistic view of normality.
Some look at Da Vinci as one of the greatest painters because of the striking realism he was able to achieve in his work but in later movements we see the likes of Picasso who become legendary for his abstract style. Though Picasso may be more known for the statement his work made than for his technical ability he is no less prolific. In some ways more so. While Da Vinci’s work was extremely accurate from a visual standpoint he is not particularly compelling as a master of raw emotion.
It can be said that both styles require an element of meditation, this internal process, focus, is invisible and immeasurable. We can only measure its product.
Before I exhaust myself in this dissertation I will leave you with this question to ponder through the month. As we go into the next year, what are your goals for the next 12 months rooted in?
Desire for success, fulfillment, or something more? We will see if we can unlock some insights here before 2015 drifts into the ether.