This is a question that haunts me. Every day I think to myself "Have I done enough? Will I be remembered?" and every day my answer is negative. I have not written enough. I have not published enough of what I have written. I have not fought enough, trained enough champions, made enough money, or influenced enough people for my memory to last beyond my current sphere of influence. In other words, after I am dead I will only be remembered by those who know me right now and I shall even fade in most of their memories. Their children will not know me. I haven't done enough yet for my story to be passed down through the generations.
So? Why does that even matter? Why should I care?
It matters because I have done a lot of other stuff, namely living, and that living comes with a lot of pain and suffering in addition to the joys and pleasures and so I would like to think that all of that pain and suffering and joy and happiness and pleasure would amount to something that would endure beyond my finite existence. This is the great appeal of religion. It gives even the most worthless among us the feeling that his or suffering might one day amount to more than dust and stench. The after-life is an appealing concept. Be assured that it is bullshit though. You are not going to heaven or hell. Stench and dust and a few brittle bone fragments is all that will be left of you in a few hundred years regardless of whatever fantasy you ascribe to and whatever imaginary friend you worship. So, I would suggest that you start asking yourself the same questions I ask myself every day.
What has your life meant? What good have you done in the world? Will you have an enduring legacy and what will it be? Will your great-grandkids know anything about you at all other than a few faded photographs? Will their great-grandkids? Am I depressing you yet? Good. If you haven't been thinking about this then you ought to be depressed. Now get over your depression and get busy building your legacy.
If you are content to live a mediocre life and then fade into the same obscurity from which you emerged then I applaud you. I envy you. If you are like many people I know and are content simply to have been a good husband or wife and a good father or mother or son or daughter than I am awed by you. You have found a peace that I could only dream of. I wish I could be so content. I wish I didn't care that life was like a computer that you spend eighty or ninety years entering data into only to have the power go out and all of your input erased. I wish I didn't care that there was no save button. Hell, I even wish I was capable of the same type of self-delusion the faithful are capable of. I wish I could ignore all the facts and believe in things that fly in the face of reason. I wish I could believe things simply because I wanted to, because they make me happy to believe in them regardless of whether or not they were ultimately true or at least probable. I wish I could do that, but I can't even understand that way of thinking. For me there is "I know" and "I don't know." There is no "I believe". So what I know is that we die. What I know is that my personality, memory, senses, thoughts, can all be traced to purely physical process originating in a purely physical organ (the brain) which is physically destroyed, decayed, disintegrated, once my heart stops pumping and my lungs stop expanding and contracting. So, any claim of an afterlife is both counter-intuitive and contrary to all reason and evidence. Therefore, it makes more sense to proceed from the very likely and reasonable probability that there is no after-life than the wildly improbable assumption that there is one. Which brings up the question of "What are you living for?" "What's your motivation?"
I live for immortality. That's right. I live everyday to ensure that my influence extends beyond my death. That my thoughts, emotions, knowledge, understanding, and my unique perspective of the world does not end with the destruction of this physical form. I therefore live for art. I live to pass the culmination of my life's experiences and any wisdom gained from those experiences on to others through my writing, through every word I speak and every action I take. I live for art. And for this reason my art must be extraordinary. It must shine above all the others. It must shine brighter and longer. And so I am not there yet. This year I am planning to finish another novel and at least begin writing a book on Humanism and Atheism. I also plan to finalize a mass-market deal for one of the novels I have already written. Next year I plan to write a self-help book and start doing lectures and workshops on maximizing your potential. All of this takes time, unfortunately, so if I died tomorrow it would be with all of that and much more left incomplete. This is why I push myself so hard, because if I died tomorrow I will have failed and everything that I am will have amounted to nothing. How about you? What do you live for and would you be content with your accomplishments so far? And if not, then what are you doing about it? Live each day as if it were your last. Live each moment as if it were going to be the world's only memory of you.