by Jake Block
People talk to me about the legacies they want to leave behind. It could be strong and successful children, the creation of a unique and useful invention to benefit mankind, the cure for cancer, etc. Virtually no one says that they want their legacy to be negative. But then, even amongst those people whose lives today are seen as “bad,” in retrospect, it’s unlikely that any of them saw themselves that way. It would be hard to imagine anyone lying in bed at night in the dark, thinking, “What can I do to make everyone in my life more miserable tomorrow?”
It’s something to contemplate that even with people who do manage to die in a state of disgrace, those who attend their funerals often find the need to find something socially redeeming for their eulogies. I could imagine that someone who was eulogizing Adolf Hitler might relate that he was fond of dogs, and fawned over his German Shepherd “Blondi,” or that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il was an excellent chef with one of his specialties being, “bosintang,” or “dog meat soup,” or that Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, was a huge fan of “The Cranes,” the Ugandan football team. This reminds me of the restaurant patron who, after being served an awful meal, wrote in the remarks card, provided with his bill, “Congratulations on the salt.”
Older cemeteries are filled with monuments to the common man. Stone monoliths and huge granite slabs mark the final resting place of the benefactors of society. Even the commonest of peasants can have a block of stone proclaiming them, “Loving Husband And Father,” or “Mother Sent From Heaven.” More common today are simple, flat concrete placards with just enough space for a name, date of birth and date of death. Equality. Commonality. Anonymity.
How then, today does the average man leave his legacy? The heroes of wars, the heroes of science, the heroes of medicine might well find a statue dedicated to them in some hallowed place. In this digital age it’s easy to leave video clips and writings of one’s personal philosophy on life, love and happiness. In years long passed, self publishing, as we know it today was called “vanity press.” Today, there are websites dedicated to individuals self-publishing their ideas and their personal memoirs on line to be accessed by others. It’s a form of immortality, I would suppose, in which one leaves his or her own description and evaluation of one’s life and legacy for anyone to review. Autobiographies run wild, and many people do it for some degree of credibility, if only self accredited.
Satanism, under Anton LaVey saw any degree of immortality to be granted through the memories and recollections of those that one has known and impacted during their lifetime. LaVey wasn’t much concerned with leaving a legacy, as he believed that only what you do at THIS TIME, and in THIS LIFE had any purpose or relevance. How little he cared about his fate after death is evidenced in the reality that he left no tangible marker, no monument, no headstone for those whose life he affected and inspired to be drawn to. His mortal remains were cremated and his ashes were divided and bequeathed to his offspring.
But he believed in the continuation of one’s spirit… the immortality of the soul, if you will… to be vested in memories, rather than as some monument or tomb enshrining one’s remains. As quoted in The Satanic Bible:
“Give blow for blow, scorn for scorn, doom for doom – with compound interest liberally added thereunto! Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, aye four-fold, a hundred-fold! Make yourself a Terror to your adversary, and when he goeth his way, he will possess much additional wisdom to ruminate over. Thus shall you make yourself respected in all the walks of life, and your spirit – your immortal spirit – shall live, not in an intangible paradise, but in the brains and sinews of those whose respect you have gained.”
Being that I have no intention of leaving any structure or monument bearing my name behind, I am pretty much in line with LaVey’s belief on immortality. There might be a relatively few people who will remember me when I finally die, but the number of people who know me personally on a face-to-face basis is small. So, my immortality is pretty much restricted to the Internet and those writings that might survive… perhaps some of my photographs as well, but eventually, those too will be shunted to the side by some more popular web searches, and Jake Block will become some obscure and nondescript click point. By that time, my ashes will have worked their way back into the soil, being absorbed as nutrients for the grasses and trees. I take comfort in that.
The thought of my own mortality keeps me humble… well, more humble than I would be if I had any belief in immortality or reincarnation. If I did, it would make me insufferable to live with! But knowing that my time on this planet is limited is a conscious reminder to take advantage of every day that I have, and to make the most of those limited number of days to be the best I can be at whatever I take on. Be the best photographer, best writer or best man that I can be, for this is truly my one and only chance to get it right.
The idea of leaving some kind of legacy that people can point to as an example to be followed or shunned has little meaning for me, because I have never cared whether people would follow or shun me. I believe in simply living life to our best advantage, becoming the best version of ourselves that we can with the tools we have to work with, and not hurting people around us any more than is necessary.
When someone asks me, “What about when you die,” I always answer, “Bury your dead, pick up your weapon and soldier on.” It’s been my motto for years. People are born and people die. It’s not part of some grand scheme in which each person is born, with a designated role to play, predestined to live, love, fight and die, all according to script. All animals… and we ARE animals… are born and all die. Some species thrive while others fail and we can only mourn their passing in an abstract way. Life is a gift, death is inevitable, and those who cannot deal with the finality of that simple paradigm go to great lengths to construct a myth and ethos to justify their survival beyond death.
The best reason for life that I have ever been given was in the military, when an old Chief Master Sergeant told me, “Jake, the best compliment to any NCO (non-commissioned officer) is that by the time he dies, he has trained his troops to continue and thrive without him.” And that, to my mind, is as good a legacy as anyone could ask for.