Humans understand a bunch of shit. We can split the atom, build the Large Hadron Collider and launch and then land a rocket back on Earth. But there’s one thing we have no clue about, one thing that’s physically impossible to experience and share knowledge about (and therefore impossible to know what the fuck we’re on about), and that’s… yep…
The one thing we have absolutely no fucking clue about and never will.
During life, many of us worry or focus or freak the fuck out constantly about being successful or leaving a legacy after we’re dead. After people die, we build monuments or statues like this one of Thoreau or this one of Marcus Aurelius, we name cities or streets after them, or when they’re mentioned in conversation we are all like ‘hey, you can’t say that’ when talking about someone who’s long since decomposed and long since they even were a pile of bones having their hydroxyapatite content degraded into nothing by the de-ionization process of inorganic material weathering (ie. dead)².
Every action comes from thought (whether conscious or not), so it’s not about what’s done, it’s about how you think
In the latest Rolling Stone, Neil Strauss (incidentally also the author of Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead) profiles the world’s most important man, Elon Musk (and also speaks about his legacy). But a) would a statue of Musk on Mars, or a ‘Musk Day’ in the future do even a sub-atomic particle of justice to what Musk has done (or will do) to help humanity? And b) what resemblance or how much justice does a lifeless metallic, pigeon shit-stained piece of cement/marble/plaster/resin/bronze do to the actual important things he did? One of them improved the world in various colossal ways (the human, animated version of Elon Musk), and the other is an inanimate hunk of metal.
The value of people like Elon Musk and the people who change the world for the better is not what they did (or do) – it’s how they think.
Instead of wasting time and money announcing commemorative days or putting up statues of people like Musk in the hope they inspire someone to be the next Elon Musk, we’d be better off teaching people to think like Musk, in his first principles-y kind of way.
¹ And near-death experiences don’t count. They may be the closest thing to it, but whether death and near-death is the same –where one is temporary and the other is permanent– is once again, unknown.