The Insidious Threat of Legacy

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

Every once in a while, something great happens. No, we’re not referring to the recently passed two year anniversary of the opening of Brad OH Inc., although we do appreciate the thought. Rather, we’re talking about the game changers—people and ideas which come along on rare occasions and totally revolutionize the way we look at the world.

This can occur in any of myriad realms of accomplishment or character. Political leaders, such as Mahatma Ghandi, religious figures such as Christ or Allah, even examples of high celebrity character—such as that of ‘The Ironman’ Lou Gehrig or ‘The Boss’ Bruce Springsteen.

These bastions of reason and decency act as shining examples for the rest of us, and their exceptional accomplishments often enter the public consciousness in a caricaturized and—arguably—dangerous form. I’m talking of course about the concept of legacy.

When certain ideas or people reach a status significant for their effects to become lionized amongst the general public, a legacy is created. A legacy refers to an ongoing tradition; something handed down from the past, one generation to the next.

For the purposes of this article, religion is an effective tool to discuss the dangers of legacy. Avoiding arguments of merit or believability for the time being, it’s held that the teachings of Christ were passed down, and formed a legacy known as Christianity. This happened, according to religious accounts, because the divine nature of Christ allowed for him to give us teachings of truth deep enough to forever change the way people interacted and treated each other. Most of these teachings, taken in the proper context, certainly do provide valuable insights into human understanding and the ideals of human behaviour.

Unfortunately, when a person, or more importantly an idea, enters the realm of legacy, the source of the related actions or beliefs takes on a dramatic and irreparable change. This involves the motivation behind the belief.

Whether we look to religion, historical role-models, or political idealists, the initial movement is always based on current circumstances, and motivated by—arguably—noble and relevant values. However once a thing becomes legacy, the motivation for following it is divorced of the initial values, and is tied rather to a sense of hero-worship. This turns general ideas into absolute truths—often with long lists of rules and potentially terrible consequences. This is seen in the formation of religions, governments, rabid fanbases, etc., and is a dangerous precedent.

When we attribute any reason for acting to another person or set of ideals, the action becomes dogmatic, and the virtue behind it bleeds out and is lost. We become little more than automatons acting on limited and inflexible scripts.

Continuing with our example, the teachings of Christ centred primarily on peace, love, and the forgiveness of transgressions. These were noble values in their day, and could certainly stand for a resurgence in modern times. However, many followers of these teachings have lionized the source while failing entirely to grasp the values. This inevitably has led to infighting, grandiose claims, and the spread of a religion of peace at the edge of a blade. The ‘idea of the idea’ is worshipped, while the true ideals behind it are lost entirely.

Legacy is baggage—a crutch for people too concerned with their own aggrandizement to ever endeavour to discover truths of their own. It’s an insincere approach from the start, centred on the notion that having a great leader’s face on a t-shirt is sufficient to convey upon the wearer the same moral high-ground of their inspiration.

But it hasn’t really gotten us anywhere useful, has it. Everywhere we turn, we can hear one buffoon or another calling out for a return to this set of values, or this person’s teachings. Aside from very rare exceptions however, these revolutionaries are inescapably mired in their own hypocrisy, and the extent of their conviction begins and ends with reference to its source.

It’s a faulty mindset, and one that needs to change. Clinging to the successes of the past without understanding their genesis is a hopeless approach to fostering lasting change.

The great tragedy of humanity is that we continually give too much credit to the past, and too little to ourselves. If we want the world to be a better place, we need to stop seeking perfect solutions, and start living up to our ideals rather than just hoping for the right set of rules to follow. Too often we look to the example of others while turning a blind eye to the actions of ourselves. This is the fundamental danger of legacy, and this is why, with the dawning of this New Year, we here at Brad OH Inc. encourage everyone to worry a little less about who they want to be associated with, and much more about who they want to be.

-Brad OH Inc.