Why do you think that some voices outlast others in time?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it seems to me that the answer is far simpler than ever thought before. The phenomena that we refer to as “history,” is a collection of things taken from the past and ordered, studied, discussed, etc. to try and give us, the ones living, an idea of where we’ve been even before our own lives began. What any freshman econ student could derive from this, is the fact that only that which gets recorded will ever even have the chance to find itself valuable in the future. History is built off of demand, and the demand is for anything that’s available from a previous age. Therefore, it is what gets recorded that lives. Everything else dies with the individual.
So what then? The point is that if you want your life to have meant something upon your physical passing, then you ought to start recording right now. It’s easy to think that the events of your own life cannot be anything of value to future generations. If Anne Frank thought this way, if Thomas Aquinas thought this way, Herodotus thought this way, where would we be?
Your place in history is expanded every time you record something about your life. It does not matter if you are a childless, uneducated manual laborer whose life feels like an accumulation of days that feel, in their totality, unimportant. There will be versions of the same person long into the future who will search for something to guide them, who will find themselves in a world inherently meaningless and say to themselves, “nobody has felt like I do now.” They will be wrong, but they won’t know it unless there is something to show them otherwise.
Such an idea seems unlikely because we often get our fill of history from the “great figures,” and not the people who lived lives more in line with our own. The great myth about history is that the lives of normal people exist only as footnotes, human clutter stacked up and arranged as the backgrounds of the lives of those who transcended regular existence. Transcendence though, in the technological age, is a far simpler endeavor than it ever has been and it starts with you and a simple decision to tell the story of who you are, and, after you’re long gone, who you were.
You should do this in both a digital and analog manner. The simplest way is by beginning a journal, which can be purchased easily at almost any store, anywhere. Digitally, there are free blogging platforms that are user-friendly and have private or public settings allowing you to only show what you want to show. If you choose to record your life digitally, be sure to keep login information in a place where someone can find it after you’re gone.
There has been plenty of talk in the past decade about what it means to “matter,” and by keeping a record of your existence, you’ll expand history’s understanding that you did.