Illusion of Legacy

Illusion of Legacy

Reading Time: 7 minutes

So many, myself included, as they become older, spend time reflecting on their life and the path they chose. I think it is fair to say everyone has regrets. Many of us can relate to marriages that did not work out, children we wished we had raised differently, or friendships lost over trivial matters. I certainly see some things in my own life I wish I could change. Careers that became dead ends, broken relationships, illness, disease, and death surround many lives. Others who walk a golden path, only need to watch the news for a few minutes to see the poverty and war that engulfs our world, even if only a little pain has touched their own life.

Surely I have become more reflective in recent years, especially with both my parents having passed away. My father passed when I was young, but my mother just a few years ago.

This reflective state was heightened recently when my family drove to Reno to the grave site of my father-in-law. As his wife and children gathered around his gravestone, I spent a few minutes walking by myself taking in the grave markers and their inscriptions.

It was a Catholic cemetery, and three things became obvious in short order. There were quite a few Hispanic names, and many stones just had one spouse listed. It was usually the father and then a blank space for the wife, who I can only assume was still living. I also noticed the most common dates of birth fell into the 1920s. The final common observation was the abundance of gravestones that recognized World War II veterans. One particular headstone with the name of Edward “Eddie” Nelson, caught my attention because, along with “Beloved Husband and Father”, it said he was a former Flying Tiger.

The Flying Tigers

The Flying Tigers were a group of American volunteers who flew against the Japanese in China, (paid by the Chinese government), prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since I was a boy, anything aviation was of great interest to me, consequently, the pilots and their planes in WWI and WWII were something I read volumes about. You would only have to walk into my study to see my historical pastime hobby. World War II veterans, especially pilots, were my heroes, and their legacy was something I greatly admired.

As I gazed at this gravestone, and dozens of others, I could not help but think about how many believe their legacy is all that will be left when they are gone. As if their legacy will carry on for time and eternity. After the children and grandchildren are gone, who will remember Edward Nelson? Sure, he may be mentioned in some history books, and possibly some distant grandchildren can brag about their past relatives, but beyond that, what does a legacy amount to?

Once my wife and her siblings are gone, and the grandchildren, who are left to remember Joe Havlick? Frankly, it is depressing when you are only left with a legacy and nothing beyond the grave. After a few decades, without a family historian, the photo albums become pictures of people no one knows. How many of us have viewed old black-and-white photos of past family, or friends of the family, and have no idea who they are. Finally, the last to recall a loved one, or remember a name on a picture passes away, and with them passes the all-important legacy we leave behind. Even famous names mentioned on the history pages fade and turn to dust.

Just a Generation Later

If you think about it, we are really in competition with each other for a legacy. Current Hollywood movie stars and sports figures are known for their respective successes. Yet those that were famous on the big screen or in sports fifty years ago, are no longer household names. In another 50 years, only their own family, or movie and sports historians, will know who they were.

As time rolls on, we each leave a legacy, and some of us only have a legacy noted by family and friends. Others, because of notoriety, move outside the community they grew up in, and are known by their state, nation, or even world. Yet, just a generation later, they are only known by related family or historians who specialize in a field related to their success.

How many of you have heard of Franklin Pierce or Chester Arthur? Yet everyone has heard of Barack Obama, and all of them have held the position of President of the United States. Pierce and Arthur are just names in a long, continually growing, list of Presidents. The competition to be the president everyone remembers is more difficult every election.

Even within our own families, we compete to be the favorite aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Sure, the competition may not be intentional, but those who impact the lives of their family, (for good or bad), are the ones who are remembered for a generation or two. Beyond that, even the favorite grandparent becomes nothing more than a faded photo, remembered by the now-old grandchild. Once the memory of the grandchild is gone, or they pass away, so goes the legacy.

Beyond an Earthly Legacy

Can someone hope that there is something beyond the grave, or do we simply become part of the Lion King’s circle of life? What can someone hope for? What evidence do we have that would even suggest there is something beyond what we experience in this life? Is there hope for us, or will our bodies, and legacy, just slip away under the earth, never to be thought of again?

I believe there is something beyond the grave, unfortunately, most don’t really give it much consideration. I will offer you one piece of evidence that suggests there is something beyond the grave.

If you conclude there is something beyond our few years here, then it would be wise to consider exactly what there is and make sure you don’t jump into enemy territory when it is your turn to depart. For myself, the day I die, to quote the American Authors, (one of my favorite songs), “This is gonna be the best day of my life!”

A Small Piece of a Large Cumulative Case for Life After Death

Where did everything come from? Thomas Aquinas may have been the first to ask, “How come we have something instead of nothing?” Has the universe always existed, or does it have a beginning, and if it has a beginning, what caused it?

In the last 60 years, science has come to our aid in the realm of cosmology or the first cause. I am sure you have heard of the Big Bang theory. This theory is something a few Christians are uncomfortable with, but actually, the Big Bang theory supports a theist’s view that God created everything. In fact, if not for the Big Bang theory, the next most popular theory would be that the universe has always existed. If the universe did not have a beginning but always existed, then you have no need to explain its existence. To quote Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” You certainly don’t need some ‘God’ to have created it and to be considered the first cause of something so fantastic.

The Portable Atheist explains it this way, “Think binary. When matter meets antimatter, both vanish, into pure energy. But both existed; I mean, there was a condition we’ll call ‘existence.’ Think of one and minus one. Together they add up to zero, nothing, nada, niente, right? Picture them together, then picture them separating–peeling apart. … Now you have something, you have two somethings, where once you had nothing.” 1 So how does that explain something from nothing? If you start with matter and antimatter, then you start with something. If you think binary and one minus one, that is something, even if it is in the abstract or conceptual.

These kinds of illustrations litter the Internet and do nothing to explain how something can come from nothing.

The Big Bang Requires a Big Banger

As it stands, the Big Bang theory is the best and most widely accepted theory to explain our beginnings. As far back as 1917, the General Theory of Relativity was confirming an expanding universe, even though Einstein assumed, as most everyone did, that the universe was static and always existed. Then in 1927, Hubble was able to observe the expansion at the Wilson Observatory and shared his discovery with Einstein a short time later, confirming for Einstein the expansion. Throughout the 20th century, science has continued to confirm the Big Bang Theory, and only those on the extreme ends dismiss it.

In 1948, scientists predicted there would be leftover heat from the Big Bang. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson won the Nobel Prize for discovering this afterglow. This afterglow had very precise variations, and this precision allowed early galaxies to form; if you can imagine a finely tuned explosion. This was confirmed in 1989 when NASA launched COBE – Cosmic Background Explorer. In 1992, George Smoot announced, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.” 2

Finally, the Second Law of Thermodynamics gives us evidence of the beginning of the universe. The universe has a finite amount of energy. If it had always existed, it would have run out of energy long ago. The Second Law is also known as the Law of Entropy, which means that nature tends to bring disorder rather than order. We have energy left and order left, so if the universe had always existed, then we would have run out of energy long ago. The Second Law of Thermodynamics demands that the universe had a beginning.

If the universe had a beginning, as science suggests, then who caused it? You see, logic tells us that “no thing” is the cause of its own existence. So if the universe had a beginning, there must be a cause outside of the universe to have caused it.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument, states the following premises and conclusion:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Does this post depress you? If so, then put your legacy in the First Cause and move beyond the generation or two that will remember you. If you work toward an earthly legacy, then not only will it be temporary, but it will disappear just as the tracks do into the sand, never to be seen, heard, or even thought of again. Revelation 22:13   Colossians 3:1-4

1. Hitchens, Christopher. The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press. 2007. Print.
2. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.


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Illusion of Legacy by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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