Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Legacy v. activities

The hamster treadmill of life is ridden with too much "what do you do?" navel gazing, versus "what have you accomplished" reminiscing. As you age, the former (or the "how") has less relevance, aside from leading to the latter (the "what"). In other words, the how you get from here to there means little; it's all about the there. Assuming, of course, there's a there there.

There was boundless there there in Thomas Jefferson's life, and there was plenty of how. The latter is obvious: Our first Secretary of State, second Vice President, and third President, preceded by governing Virginia. He achieved distinction as (thanks, Wiki) a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, and inventor, among others. Jefferson was an eclectic and curious bad ass.

His epitaph, written by him with an insistence that only his words and "not a word more" be inscribed, reads:

HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Think about it: A past-president's tombstone lacking reference to his presidency. Jefferson shelved his ego: his activities -- what he did -- carried little weight, and his accomplishments -- his legacy -- were perpetuated.

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