There is an interesting NPR interview with Donald Hall, the Poet Laureate which was broadcast after his death. Of the wide-ranging topics of this interview, one thing he pondered on was the fleeting nature of significance. Here was an award-winning poet who, when questioned regarding if he thinks he will be remembered after his death remarked that he hoped he would, but that he likely wouldn’t be. He listed off names of award-winning authors who, now a few years after their awards, are only listed on a Wikipedia page. No one really knows anything about them, let alone what they wrote. In light of that, he resigned that it would be nice to be remembered, but had also made peace with the fact that he likely wouldn’t be.
It was a stark reminder of how fleeting our time is here on earth, and how temporary any real achievement is. For example, the richest man in the history of the world was arguably Mana Musa of Mali. His vast wealth and expanding empire were matchless. He helped spread Islam to new reaches as his wealth and territory grew and grew. However, besides being an interesting note in history, do we really know anything about him personally? His likes, dislikes, and personality? What made him laugh? Was there a joke he would tell all the time to the rolling eyes of his family? Nobody knows. We will never know. His wealth now lost to generations. He is like the rest of us will become. Lost to time. Gone to eternity. A vaporA footnote in history (though he has a longer footnote than most).
Things that last
So, what then does last? One of my favorite quotes of Mother Teresa is, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Truly. The only lives we really significantly touch, change and influence are those closest to us and around us. Loving our spouses, helping them to live their best lives and selves as they help us live ours. Pouring into our children, building them up to be the best people they can be. Showing them their significance in our world, and their significance to God. That is lasting. It will be the stories they tell to their children. It will be the foundation of their lives. Is there anything greater? Another favorite quote that shows up to remind me of this important work is: “You are the voice that your children hear when they are adults.” These impressions, these voices in their heads is what has lasting significance. They are truly our wealth that will give to generations beyond this one
I had a counselor tell me once that if we could truly see how significant we are to God, most of our problems would disappear. The more I have thought about it, and the more I learn about who God is the more I realize that he is correct. What is the vast wealth in the world if your soul is empty? What is true recognition and esteem if the creator of all things has personal concern for you? What is the love, or lack of love from another person if you know that you are truly loved and cared for by a supreme being? Why fear the powers around you when the power that spoke the world into existence knows how many hairs fall from your head.
That is lasting significance.
This post first appeared on Rethink Redo Repair.