The great American playwright, Arthur Miller, made immortality one of his constant themes. In fact he once said that trying to achieve it, or at least be remembered is like "carving your initials on a cake of ice on a hot July day." Social media is a good example of latter day attempts at immortality. But what happens to all these attempts? even some of the most famous are soon forgotten. Perhaps if we write a classic song or piece of literature or if we make a painting on the scale of the Mona Lisa that cake of ice will remain frozen just a little longer. Perhaps. In his incisive oral histories, Studs Terkel has captured many of the ways people try to leave their mark. I was always fond of the steel worker he interviewed who always tried to leave a little blemish on his work just so people would not forget that a human being was involved in this work. That probably goes on in many factories to this day. But immortality is, as Miller suggests, a futile pursuit. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to be firmly placed on a family tree that continues to grow. With the renewed interest in finding our roots, the task and the technology is all the more possible.
What happens to the flotsam and jetsam of a life? Remarkably, it's a fairly quick and easy process to rid the world of one's presence. Harsh as it sounds, people's belongings and leavings can dissolve into their surroundings rather quickly. Places accept books, clothing, furniture and most anything of value. Other places accept all the rest. Poof!
I was wondering the other day, while cleaning a closet about what will happen to a variety of things I still have. Not anything anyone would want, but some old journals, poems, paintings, and paintings with poems on them? I won't flatter myself with the notion that people, some people would love to discover these things someday when I'm gone, but they would sure be easier to discard without me. Or the alternative: I could begin to deal with all the possessions I have that were attempts at immortality while I'm of sound mind. Think I will. Some sort of ritual or ceremony might be best. Too bad I don't have a fireplace where I can burn things. Sometimes fire is cleansing. And...it's the opposite of ice.