In Psalm 49:5-11, we read,
Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it. For the ransom of life is costly, and can never be enough to keep us alive forever and never see the grave.
When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own.
In the long view, humanity may be on the edge of extinction but the earth will probably recover from us and our frightening greed and lack of boundaries. I find that cold comfort and, like most of us, would like to imagine leaving as a legacy a world of peace and abundance for the generations to come.
Visiting the rubble of the great buildings of other cultures is instructive in the sense that if we are wise, we learn that everything changes, mutates from what it was to what it could be, or disappears for a time. If everyone dies, and all things change, where do we want to place ourselves in this pocket of the Now, of eternity? How then shall we live?
A friend recently said how little interest they had in the disposition of their body after death since it belonged to the earth but their soul — something no one could touch — belonged to the stars. For those of us who are not victims of a particular society, yet without any individual power to transform our world, we still have our voices. We may not live in mansions, but we have voting options. For those who do have economic power and influence, how are you caring for the vulnerable, the victims? A child is leading the climate change movement. We can all stop to support and listen to the children who do not care about the GNP, who have no interest in how well the banks are doing. They care about survival.
What legacy do we want to leave behind? Our empty mausoleums? Our rubble? Or do we want to be a part of the mass outcry to save this holy earth, all its creatures, even our children!
The psalmist is correct that we all die and our names blow away like the ashes of a bygone era. How we live with that depends on where we place our priorities. For me, the sacred nature of all life, the challenge and comfort of the spiritual life, the pain and joy of community has always held more value for me than money or status. In this one holy life, I have wanted to drink deeply from the well of knowledge, feel passionately about the issues that concern us all, forgive and be forgiven for trespasses I didn’t recognize at the time.
Part of my faith says that resurrection is possible, that there is a balm in Gilead to heal us all. For those of us who follow Jesus, there must be commitment as well as hope, work with our prayers, and compassion that leads us to justice rather than judgement.
When I die, I hope wildflowers and a maple tree spring up although they were not planted. I hope that I have brought more love and healing than pain and injustice. I do not need any rubble added to my life. I am happy to fade away.
What do you want your legacy to be? Do you hope for rubble or something more eternal? I hope that we all live with such an appreciation of the sacred in our world that the strength of our prayer, and the strength of our voices and actions, help us to trust that the Holy is working with us to renew the face of the earth.