OPINION | Our legacy - What should it be?

by F. Bustamante

A former senator, Nene Pimentel, has passed, according to social media postings. I do not know the man nor have I heard of him before now, but I pray that he finds rest and peace with the Lord.

To point out the obvious, human life is fragile and finite. We all have an ‘expiration date’, like that can of ‘Ligo’ sitting on a store shelf. I wonder if people give enough thought to that, or to the fact that we neither know the ’when nor how’. It can be argued that it is precisely because of this borrowed time that we are consumed by the here and now, and often by the object of our fascination: ourselves and what we think we deserve. Perhaps...but that would be the folly of shortsightedness, and a lack of thoughtful appreciation for what lies beyond this lifetime. I know I don’t want to binge on the pleasures of today only to spend eternity in suffering.

While some people live with accountability and in community, others exist with little to no care for the consequence of their actions, their impact on the  lives of others, the legacy they leave behind. They live in the moment, short-sighted and some completely-corrupted. Unfortunately for Filipinos, there is an abundance of this kind in the Philippines. Even more unfortunate is that many of them are found in positions of power and trust where they have the potential to inflict great pain and suffering in selfish pursuit of their own agenda.

There have been many consequential figures in human history. (I’ll use the word ‘consequential’ instead of important because importance is a birthright we all share from our Creator.) Marcos comes to mind. Of course he is not the most desirable example of a consequential person, but he was of grave consequence to the Filipino people and his impact, ugly as it was, is still felt today. His dark legacy of injustice, inhumanity and excess left behind a trail of destruction for his people. They called him a ‘strongman’ but in reality he was weak. Doing the right thing is often more difficult than succumbing to one’s human frailty. It takes strength to overcome human weakness and rise above it.  In that sense, Marcos was a weak man pretending to be strong. No matter how his family and supporters tweak it, history has already  judged Marcos fairly as a man of failure and broken humanity.

So how important is legacy? Very, both from the point of view of the person and of society. It is the lasting imprint you leave when you say ‘adios’ for the last time. It is what you leave behind for the greater humanity to remember you by. It is you and the entirety of your existence from the eyes of others. It encapsulates the meaning of the life you lived. It is you declaring that you left the world better than you found it. If your legacy is all about you and yourself, well, when you’re gone you’ll be relegated to the forgotten folds of history, unknown, unappreciated and maybe even despised.

I close this with a quote from Nelson Henderson that illustrates the legacy of love and generosity through the image of a grown tree, planted by someone long gone and enjoyed by those who came after...

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”