As we age into society, there are certain human truths we not only begin to learn, but then start to live — and it is in moments like those, like the one we’re sharing now in the rare “long form” live read on the internet — that I want to urge you to abandon the trophies and the tricks and the cunning surrounding our lives and to instead leave behind something that matters, footfalls suspended in amber, creating your own fossil record.
One thing we all know as casual scientists and inveterate believers is that being suspended in amber is a good method for being remembered, and being encased in mud and rock or volcanic ash is another fine preservative tactic that helps the truth be known to others millions of years beyond perspective. The truth, in situ, is always within you not without you.
Today, I argue that titles, recognition, publicity and awards rarely amount to anything in the end. Sure, those chits may make you feel more important, or allow you to take a better liking to yourself while you’re alive, but when you’re gone, those trophies tend to die with you. It’s all whimsy and turtles and momentary popularity. High school wrapped in a suffocating a cellophane bag.
The truth, when rightly preserved, means everything!
Today, I ask you to donate to your own fossil record, and suspend your own memories in amber — and that is not an easy task, because everything now and around you conspires against preservation: Social Media, the loss of the paper trail, transient thinking, revisionist politics, and a return to fundamentalism that wounds intellectualism instead of assuaging it.
Even books have become virtual, and non-embeddable on a wooden bookshelf. Our paper libraries have disappeared, and we tell ourselves we’re better off without all those musty piles of bound paper, but those of us born into dirt and tossed into the sky know there’s nothing authentic in internet transfer protocols: We have the world’s greatest books at our fingertips, if only we could read them all at once or just hold one in our hand to divine context and intention in the binding.
We take for granted what we think we know, and that shared, agreed-upon knowledge of who and what we are to become dies with us on the way to the grave.
The battle road is a long one for keeping internal truths sane and undigested for future minds to discover and explore in your own fossil record. Find a way to take the things that matter to you and embed them, and protect them, for the next 500 years.
The creative ones among us don’t leave behind their names on buildings, creating public gravestone memorials, they rather invisibly touch the future by resurrecting the wonder in the unborn, infant, mind and their legacy becomes just that: one of imagination and longing.
I think the safest way to embed yourself in amber is through the thinking of others. If people remember you, and propagate you, and share your lessons and your thinking — right or wrong — we begin to fight the lapses of judgment that arrive with convenient memory that disremembers hard experiences in favor of sugar moments and the fruit-filled feel goods of achievements and trophies.
We deserve, as a society, to be more than our celebrities and our raconteurs. We deserve to be known for not just what we accomplished, but for what we set out to do — especially our failures of what we thought we knew but did not discover — and then, in those exploded voids, another hole in understanding is filled with concrete, purposeful, knowing.
Oftentimes our losses become our greatest victories, but a trophy society mentality discounts anything that cannot be chalked up to a win — and those gritty failures are the greatest indelible marks against our human souls that yearn for meaning and longevity beyond the amber.