Hitler did. So did Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Confucius, Lucretius and Jesus. You and I won’t. Well, maybe you will but I sure as hell won’t. When our children and grandchildren are dead, few will remember who we were or even be able to identify us in photos. Accomplishments we thought significant, videos in which we may have appeared and even what we may have written will be quickly forgotten.
My grandfather’s name is on a street-sign in Kogarah, near Sydney, Australia; my father-in-law’s is on another in L’Isle-Adam, near Paris, France. People living in O’Meara Street today have no idea who Michael O’Meara was, and are not even curious to find out (I know : I asked them). Some frequenting the Allée Jean Cailleux do remember the popular doctor and his forty-two years of practice in his home in the center of town (now a Police station !), but in a few years he will be totally forgotten and the name of the allée will no doubt be changed. Neither he nor Michael O’Meara right now are particularly chagrined by their oblivion, nor even pleased that they have already found a certain immortality, thanks to the fact that I mention them both in my book . . . They are both dead, so they could not care less. Nor will anyone else, give or take fifty years.
Why would anyone want to escape oblivion ? Probably their vanity made them seek fame and recognition all their lives, to the point that they believed they deserved to be remembered and appreciated even after their death. Whether they or anyone else escapes oblivion, at the end of the day when the cows come home, does not matter much, unless their life and heritage continue to serve as an example to be followed, or as a contribution of lasting literary, scientific or artistic value. We remember the famous for the good they did and try to forget the rest. We cannot forget the infamous for their crimes against humanity.
Napoleon Bonaparte spent the last six years of his life making sure that future generations saw him as one of the greatest men who ever lived, if not THE greatest. He was certainly the all-time world champion in self-marketing (though some accuse a certain Artful Blogger of the same). Convinced he had succeeded in making his achievements and even his hatted silhouette universally recognized (like Hitchcock’s unmistakeable rotundity), he no doubt found comfort in the thought on his death-bed at Saint Helena.
“Vanitas vanitatum” ! Better to do one’s best during life to employ one’s capacities to make one’s sphere of influence, if not the world, a better place, than to waste one’s time trying to avoid oblivion when time runs out. Those who follow us will decide whether we are worth remembering or not. Frankly, modest man that I am, I could not care less – although I do hope that future generations will continue to appreciate and find enlightenment in this extraordinary Blog . . .