What Are You Doing To Preserve Your Simple Legacy?

Whether you’re a blogger, photographer or simply a person who has learned some valuable lessons from life, you know things and have created things that can benefit others.

What are you doing to make sure your legacy of information and creativity is preserved for the benefit of future generations?

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a guy named Glenn who was pleased to see that I had written an article about a friend of his — Lee Lawrence. It’s one of many items I wrote when I was a freelance journalist that are still floating around on the Internet.

I never met Lee in person, but I interviewed him by phone and email more than once. Some of the adjectives that describe him, as I remember, are gay, nudist, radical, simple, fed up and sick. He started a simple retreat camp in the South where people could come and recharge after various pieces of life had drained them, and that’s why some editor or another asked me to interview him.

I don’t know how many people ever went to Lee Valley Farm or what might have happened on his property that was beyond the bounds of my comfort zone, but I can say this: Lee, who died many years ago of complications from HIV, was an interesting person.

But Glenn had noticed something rather sad: While Lee had created lots of heartfelt and entertaining newsletters, essays and columns — and lived a unique and interesting life — almost nothing about Lee remains on the Internet.

Lee’s life is in danger of being forgotten — along with his simple, escapist message that could save others from being alone with their feelings of not fitting in or wanting to get away from the out-of-control life they have built.

Is your life and its best creations in danger of being forgotten?

If you have children, you can at least be assured that you won’t be immediately forgotten, but you can’t be sure that the value system you worked so hard to establish for yourself will survive as a model to others. You can’t even be sure you will be remembered fondly.

If you’re a blogger, your words will only live until your hosting account payment becomes past due, then you’ll be virtually wiped from the face of the Information Superhighway, perhaps surviving for a while in an inaccessible hard drive backup or an Internet way-back machine.

If you take pictures that capture interesting moments, who will be able to see your best candid snaps when the plastic of your memory sticks has started to degrade and only a few museums still have SD card readers?

I don’t know how to best preserve our important words, images and messages. Maybe you can offer a comment with your ideas.

I know this, however: A simple, deliberate, creative, vibrant, entertaining and fun life deserves to be preserved as a message of hope and inspiration to those who find themselves hopelessly caught in the mire of life’s unnecessary silliness.

What are you doing to make sure your life’s unique and vital message is preserved and understood into the future?

Glenn started a small blog at called The Tao of Lee, hoping to do his part to preserve the memory and message of Lee Lawrence, but he hasn’t yet found much left to preserve. Will someone try to piece your life back together?

Houses, bank accounts, horse farms and manufacturing plants will seem to those who come after us like quaint reminders of a time when things were different. But people like Lee who never saw an iPad or used free WiFi lived lives that still matter to people like us who are trying to find simplicity.

Will your life matter to those who come later? Will there be anything left of it?


  1. I have 5″ floppies, 21/2 ” discs, Cd’s, and now flash drives. None of these will be usable for my grandchildren since I have no idea what the technology will be for them. The only thing I can depend on is paper. I am in the process of putting all of my writings back on paper and now back up everything I write on paper. I am grateful to my grandfather who used a journal and I can still read it today, it is on paper.

    1. It’s a good point that paper is fully compatible forwards and backwards, but I’d like to think there’s a better way. I don’t know what it is, however. And of course, paper can be even more easily destroyed than some storage media. But I’d have trouble finding anyone with any kind of floppy drive.

      I appreciate you joining the conversation here, Kent. I’m very anxious to see how people handle this.

  2. Gip, these are things I’ve never really thought about before. Kent is right, the only thing certain to transfer through the ages is paper, but what about those of us that don’t want to keep all of the paper? I would have to open a library to house all of the things I’ve written through the years if they were on paper.

    I’ll be interested to read the kinds of ideas you receive here.

    1. So far, I haven’t seen any ideas. People seem either interested or disinteresting in preserving a legacy but have no idea how to do it.

      I’d love to run a guest post by someone who has some ideas!

  3. Gip, thanks for bringing up this issue with a wider audience. (And of course I’m not at all displeased to see a few more people directed to Lee’s writings – of which I’ve found more to post when I have time to transcribe.) It really has bothered as I’ve lost talented friends over the years to see the uniqueness of their life and work disappear into the ether. It was time to try and do something about it. Thanks to free tools such as WordPress and Blogger the only cost is in time and effort. My urge to conserve may be partly the product of many years of library work, so I can identify with your poster on the importance of hard storage — but I’m counting on the Internet and its distribution and auto-archiving functions to do a better job of replicating the content and making preservation more sure.

    1. I’m glad to mention your site about Lee. It’s a great example of someone doing something about a problem to which I haven’t yet heard any real solutions.

      I live with a former librarian, so I understand. I hope the Internet is serving as you expect. While I know records are being kept, I’m not sure how accessible they are.


  4. I can see how for some this might be a concern, but for me it’s not. Out of all the many things I ruminate over, what happens after I’m gone just isn’t one of them. I’m not trying to be flippant, it’s just that despite one’s best intentions there’s no way to ensure your creations will live on after you, or that anyone will care if they do.

    1. There are people who spend their lives looking back. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not, but I’m glad they do it. People in the past have written some amazing things. But what we be left of today’s writings?

  5. This is a really interesting discussion.

    Somewhat similarly, I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately running along the lines of: I don’t think that children are in my future, so why do I save *anything* I consider sentimental? Why am I saving 17+ years of journals; who is going to read them? Why am I saving every little gift my dad ever gave to me, if I won’t someday be saying “That was from Grandpa”?

    But your question is: What are you doing to make sure your life’s unique and vital message is preserved and understood into the future?

    My answer to that question is “nothing,” but the longer answer is, it seems to me that only discourses within institutions are more likely to continue being discussed in the future. For example, I am participating in the Unity church, and we read writings from the church’s founder that use outdated language and tough concepts. Only because he founded a religious movement do his ideas as a mystic continue to be studied, although they are not simple or appealing to a wide audience. So perhaps the answer is…if you want you work to be remembered, start a religious movement!! Haha just kidding, that’s not exactly the conclusion I’m getting at, but an exploration of this idea.

    1. I’m not sure that institutions will have the same place in the society of the future because we all have a voice now. While some are whistling in the breeze, some of us are hearing each other, as a blog with an active commenting community proves.


  6. Gip:
    Back in January, when you posted on Ancient-World Lessons in Simplicity, we were talking about leaving a legacy or not as the case may be. You said:

    Maybe the best legacy, Nancy, is to leave nothing behind — no damage, no hurting, no resentment… There are worse things to leave behind than nothing. Since most of my writing is digital, I suppose it will all disappear when I die and stop paying the hosting bill.

    I really liked the thought that the best legacy is to leave nothing behind, since that’s probably what will happen with me. But now you’re telling me I have to create something and preserve it? Or are you just deciding that you don’t want your own digital writing to disappear?

    1. I don’t know if I’ve yet written anything worth preserving, but researchers in future generations will want examples of this era, and much of it isn’t on paper. I’m certainly not convinced that printing things on paper is a way to preserve them. But I don’t have any other ideas. Much of my best work, though, has never been printed to my knowledge.


  7. I guess I’m on the other side of this one. I tend to think most of my writings would be the clutter of the future. Surely, the good ideas will get developed further by the writers of each generation. I’ve lived long enough to already see that happen to some of my best ideas. So, why would I want people to have to dig through my outdated ideas?

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