In the midst of a world that is too big and too fast, a world where information rules like a dictator and news travels like a virus, it is easy to be overcome by the hopelessness of the world and the helplessness of we, its keepers. What impact can we have? What traces will we leave behind?
History, I believe, is not the story of grand acts and masterpieces. History, instead, is the inexorable accumulation of tiny events–footsteps and glances, hands in soil, broken promises, bursts of laughter, weapons and wounds, hands touching hair, the art of conversation, the rage of loss. Historians may focus on the famous, familiar names–but history itself is made, day after day, by all those whose names are never known, all those who never made a proclamation or held an office, all those who were handed a place on earth and quietly made a life out of it.
So, what do we affect during our lifetime? What, ultimately, is our legacy? I believe, in most cases, our legacy is our friends. We write our history unto them, and they walk with us through our days like time capsules, filled with our mutual past, the fragments of our hearts and minds. Our friends get our uncensored questions and our yet-to-be-reasoned opinions. Our friends grant us the chance to make our grand, embarrassing, contradictory pronouncements about the world. They get the very best, and are stuck with the absolute worst we have to offer. Our friends get our rough drafts. Over time, they both open our eyes and break our hearts. Emerson wrote, “Make yourself necessary to someone.” In a chaotic world, friendship is the most elegant, the most lasting way to be useful. We are, each of us, a living testament to our friends’ compassion and tolerance, humor and wisdom, patience and grit. Friendship, not technology, is the only thing capable of showing us the enormity of the world.
Stephen Dietz, 1992.