Will you be?
What about what the things you did?
Memories may be the ultimate human creation. By this I don't mean the memories you make for yourself. You have a head full of those. But when you create a memory for somebody else, good or bad, you've ever so slightly adjusted the calibration of the universe.
Artists' actions always concern the process of creating memories for other people. Some artists may say they create for themselves, that their motivations are internal, but if they're trying to do good work – – and I don't know a single creative person who's trying to do BAD work – – the result inevitably leads to memories for others, even if the motivation is purely personal on the part of the artist.
Nobody living today knew Vincent van Gogh. Nobody alive today knew Henry David Thoreau, or Frederick Chopin, or Marie Curie either. But as cultural icons there's arguably more written and available about these people, more cultural memory about them, than what's available about most living people we know personally today. We may know all sorts of things about Van Gogh, but we can hardly say we actually knew the man. Nonetheless, millions and millions of people have an intimate relationship with what he did. We hold memories about his actions, and based on whatever stories have been collected and passed forward, we believe we have some sense of the person, vague and sketchy though it may be.
At my gym the other day I saw a handful of photocopied pages taped to walls informing members about a memorial service for someone in the community who had recently died. I knew the man just a little--just enough to say hello and smile. He died young of completely unexpected causes, and I can only guess at the pain and challenges that face his family. What really caught my attention was the fact that his life, largely unknown to me, nonetheless enabled and created all sorts of memories for others. Somebody knew this man well enough to put up hand-made signs lamenting his passing. Others knew him much more intimately. People like me knew him only like a vague sound in the distance. Most people in the world knew him not at all, as is the case for most of us with regard to everyone else.
As an artist, it's therefore incumbent on me to never lose touch with the reasons behind my motivation to create things, and the potential implications of what those creations may be. I, too, find that I do not create in order to chase fame, or simply gather the light to myself. I create things to adjust the world ever so slightly into a place where I'd like to live. But as I consider the implications for how all creative work sends ripples out through time, it occurs to me that any influence I have in the present will pale in comparison to whatever influences my actions may have as they play forward into tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
How we are remembered is a function of how we live today. How we live today will determine how we are remembered. The mirror sees only what we show it.
PS -- On a totally different subject, regular readers know that we have a big affiliation with NASA. Next week we'll be featuring a major essay about strategic thinking in terms of media and communications at The Space Agency. Even if you've never been a space nut, you'll want to make a note to check it out, as the substance has less to do with NASA and more to do with making audience connections on complex subjects, even if the audiences aren't specialists in the field. It's called "The Romance of Space, the Idealization of NASA". That's next Monday morning! Only from 1AU Global Media.