Do you ever, in moments of quiet reflection, wonder how you will be remembered once you die? I don't just mean your physical characteristics, or your personality, but your impact on the world. I have no doubt that many people feel they will leave no imprint on the world. Some of my childless clients seem to struggle with this more than those who are parents, but it is something we can all find ourselves chewing over from time to time. Perhaps the idea that you will have no lasting effect on the world is something that is more than just a fleeting thought, causing you much anxiety and perhaps even sleepless nights.
This is one of the main concepts Irvin Yalom tackles in his wonderful book 'Staring at the Sun', which I read recently. I found it to be a life affirming read, and I recommend it to anyone/everyone who wants/needs to start to face the issue of their own mortality.
There is one idea that Yalom talks about in detail that particularly struck a chord with me - the idea of rippling. Rather than try to paraphrase, I'll let Yalom's words speak for themselves:
Rippling refers to the fact that each of us creates - often without our conscious intent or knowledge - concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years, even for generations. That is, the effect we have on other people is in turn passed on to others. much as the ripples in a pond go on and on until they're no longer visible but continuing at a nano level. The idea that we can leave something of ourselves, even beyond our knowing, offers a potent answer to those who claim that meaninglessness inevitably flows from one's finiteness and transiency.
So, whether you are 19 or 90, in the peak of physical health, or facing your own imminent demise, as Irvin Yalom says, it is never too late to change the ripples you leave in your wake.
Go on, make some ripples!