ARRATIVE: Step 5
Finding the Story of Your Life and Legacy
“We live, not by things, but by the meanings of things. It is needful to transmit the passwords from generation to generation.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Last, but not least, is the spiritual task of life review and the creating of a living will or legacy - the story of your heroic journey. This is the most precious thing you can leave behind for loved ones, but it is also the cornerstone of understanding what your life was really about and coming to terms with all the things that didn't turn out the way you expected or the way you wanted.
We have become far too fixated on material inheritances, when what is most valuable are the legacies of things unseen, but deeply felt. In the end, what really matters is to assert that we have lived, that our lives held meaning, that we made a difference. No matter how small it may seem in our own eyes if a single life was blessed by reason of our existence, that is reason enough for having lived.
How many times has an adult looked back and thought, “Oh, I wished I’d asked Mom about that…” Or, “I wish we’d had Dad record that story while he was still around!” Don’t wait until it’s too late. Make sure that these precious memories of the ancestors are harvested for future generations.
To be able to discern the storyline that has run like a deep underground river through the landscape of our years is one of the great tasks of old age. We each have a story that we are living out, the hero journey, and to be able to tell the story and see – sometimes for the first time – what your adventure was really about, is the source of enormous joy and satisfaction. The hard won wisdom that we have gleaned through our trials and triumphs is what we leave behind for the next generation. This is a legacy worth inheriting.
We are not taught how to perceive the patterns that subtly guide our life choices which turned chances and seemingly random events into those synchronicities that make Hollywood plots pale by comparison. Through my many years of working with the Joseph Campbell Foundation I have crafted numerous processes for harvesting the deep stories of one’s life.
It is our great task to see the myth that we have been living and to give it shape and thereby pull out it’s treasures to feed our own hunger for meaning but also to enrich the lives of those who shall come after us.
This is the task of all tasks, and the real purpose of living to a ripe old age. To neglect to do this important part of aging is to miss the point of being an elder. If more of us were more deliberate about creating these living legacies, younger generations would not scratch their heads and wonder what old people are for. We need to be the reminder that the wisdom of age has its rightful place in any social system and that the young ignore it at their peril.
“Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we chose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
There are many beautiful ways of capturing the essence of a lifetime, and honoring your own story as a living legacy. Whether you write the letter, tell your story through a series of photos, write an actual book, create an online journey map, do a photo timeline, create a scrapbook, compile an annotated family tree, map out your hero journey, create a curio cabinet, build a treasure box of artifacts, develop a video, etc. there will be some way of generating the right physical manifestation for your life story.
The very act of telling your story to another person is the catalyst for profound insights into the structure and nature of your life adventure.
Aristotle warned that "the unexamined life is not worth living" - This is your chance to go beneath the surface and see what you've really been up to all these years!