When humanity doesn’t have a solution to a problem every time, without fail, they refer to the past for an answer. A friend will counsel you, who thinks has experienced the same situation you are currently experiencing, or bring up a quote from some ancient sage that speaks to him/her. When people run into trouble, they look behind them to see if they are in the company of others or they have left the world so far behind that they stand alone. Somehow the road of life only matters when trouble is afoot. Such is man, a fickle creature, only looking ahead when things are fine, singing praises to individuality, but immediately turning around when problems arise, to check if others can help. The foolishness of the idea is self-explanatory, and yet we all participate. I have trouble with that; I cannot see any other human, no matter how despicable, as a means by which I can attain something else. People are an end in themselves, a goal that includes the possibility of understanding far more than just a few traits of another person. We can see, if we care, the universe in which people exist, in which they live.
At any rate, as Edith Hamilton had stated in that first post I made, the need to look back is not only natural, it is necessary, for only in the past we are able to find those who have truly lived through the same experiences and, if we are lucky, have written about it that we too may survive. These ancients, fortresses of knowledge, attained a level of understanding far beyond their time, and became pillars upon which Greek temples (ie. countries, societies, cities, villages, ideas, and religions) stand. The Romans, with all of their Stoicism, understood that it was the collective which made the whole, not the other way around. Ancient Roman respect for the ancestor, those who had come before, was unprecedented. Mos Maiorum “the way of the elders” was law in Rome. Busts of the ancestors lined walls of homes in which men and women tried to behave in a manner that would honor the parents of their gens. It was upon these pillars that Rome stood, men of vision that were their share of eccentric, visionary, and bold. These men of vision have been remembered through millennia because they refused to give into the ways others viewed the world. These men had an idea, and as crazy as they were, they went through with it to deliver us a world forever changed.
It was then I realized that, like me, like many of us, the young men of the 332nd did not realize the potential of their actions; they were so bogged down by circumstance that they could not look ahead to see how their actions would affect future generations. Granted, it is very hard to see the future, even when your actions may drive some of the results, but to think ahead is no sin, and while we live in the moment, looking to the past for the occasional pick-me-up, we must also look to the future in order to see our efforts in full perspective. If the members of the 332nd would have looked to the impact their actions could have for future generations, African-American or otherwise, they would have known that what they did, and how they did it, did not only matter, but because it was them doing it, it mattered most. John Adams, another of my favorite writers, always wrote thinking of future generations. Hardly a single letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, was written without him mentioning that posterity was the reason for his proper behavior. The politician thought of his children and future generations almost as if they were present at that very moment, and sought to impress in their minds the relevancy of his actions, as well as the sacrifices made to maintain what had been obtained.
As I put it all together in my head, and I do like to go over resolutions to my philosophical conundrums over and over again in order to make sure that they are established within my mind, I realized the relevancy of what I did, and how I did it, had nothing to do with my current success or my understanding of previous accomplishments, it had to do with how it would affect future generations, and whether or not they could draw some kind of aid from my experiences to become better people. If we have something to offer now, it becomes all the more valuable over time, and our duty is to live our days as best as possible, so that our example will reverberate through the sea of time, and into the future.
It is not at about if what we do and how we do it matters, it is about the fact that what we do and how we do it matters most, because we are pillars in which the rest of humanity rests. Pillars in which the temple of culture and knowledge are built. We are the fortresses of the spirit for future generations.
We are pillars for the future, fortresses of solitude for the refuge of others, people of understanding that can lead generations to become better. Whether we are seen as eccentric, contradictory, or just plain crazy, we will generate ripples that will grow into waves of thought. So the answer to the question is a resounding yes: what we do and how well we do it does matter. Although, it matters not because of the now, but because of tomorrow. When an idea is opposed vehemently, such opposition is evidence of its innovation, and all things innovative are important to future generations. Edmund Burke wrote: “A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.”
There it is. It matters, what we do. We can become pillars of wisdom, fortresses of protection, so when posterity looks to its past in moments of trouble and pain we may serve them as inspiration. Despite the disdain in which we were held in our own times we can help those who strive to live their present as well as we lived ours. We become saviors not in the moment, never in the moment, but down the turbulent currents of time. There we can be, in the distance, an example of courage, a bastion of understanding, a fortress of the soul, a beacon of hope.