Leaving a mark

snowshoeing

snowshoeing

We’re in the Rockies with some friends (2 from Chicago, 4 of us from SF), staying in a cabin and going snow shoeing. We’ve gotten some fresh snow up in the mountains, and snowshoeing is a perfect way to enjoy the fresh snowy wintery forests.

There’s something oddly satisfying about leaving a track on fresh virgin snow. I suspect this stems from some primal urge to leave a mark on this world, to say “I wuz here,” to give ourselves the illusion that our existence matters. It reminded me of what Kara admitted to Lee in the Battlestar Galactica finale, that her greatest fear was not death, but being forgotten. When I was a kid, I read a lot of biographies of (mostly Japanese) historical figures, and I too once aspired to be someone who wouldn’t be forgotten. I spent years stressing over accomplishing something great enough to deserve (or reserve?) a place in the hallowed halls of The Unforgotten. It is probably no accident that many religions promise an eternal (or at least another) life after this one to appease this common fear.

animals pee to leave a mark

animals pee to leave a mark

Recently, I realized that this quest for immortality, if not in flesh then in name, was an ultimately futile exercise. Some people are remembered longer than others, but civilizations crumble, written records are lost, memories forgotten, species driven to extinction, and planets incinerated by expanding stars that they orbit. No matter what you do, no matter how famous you become, you will be forgotten eventually, if not sooner, then later.

That is not to say that life is meaningless, or that it is pointless to strive to achieve great things. Rather, it is my belief that we should value our lives and the lives of others, regardless of the ultimate outcome. Even if the end result is death, anonymity, extinction, annihilation, incineration and atomic decay, we possess the ability to value life, fleeting as it may be. In other words, while many religions teach that we should be good in this life so that we could deserve a better spot in the next life, we could just as easily choose to be good in this life, even if this is the one and only life we live. In fact, if this is the one and only life we get, it should be more reason to treat it well, live it fully, and help ensure others can do the same.

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