In college, one of my favorite classes was Communications 231 because we discussed culture so deeply. I had always been fascinated by culture, studying people in small ways every day, but this class gave me additional tools I could use in my understanding of all things human. This became the field of study I could joyfully pursue.
My communications class had to read many, many different articles, one of which has really stuck with me all these years later. It’s an excerpt from The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis. In it, he discusses the habit of humans to make changes to our world without thinking of the long-term effects. He opens this section by discussing the fact that sailors used to navigate by the sky, following Venus by night, something we’re no longer able to do. He wonders why this is.
We assume that somehow we shall be able to divide the universe into enough infinitesimally small pieces, that somehow even according to our own rules we shall be able to comprehend these, and critically we assume that these particles, though extracted from the whole, will render meaningful conclusions about the totality. Perhaps, most dangerously, we assume that in doing this, in making this kind of choice, we sacrifice nothing. But we do. I can no longer see Venus.
There are so many things that we can do now that generations before were unable to do: information is at our fingertips, healthcare technology has improved leaps and bounds, and virtually the entire world is now connected. We’re able to meet and experience people and cultures with relative ease that we wouldn’t have dreamed of visiting even a few decades ago. We are truly living in a wonderful time, but it was built upon the work and dreams of those who came before us.
We can do what we’re doing today because others decided to take leaps of faith.
In his book To Shake the Sleeping Self, Jedidiah Jenkins shares his 14,000-mile bike ride from Oregon to Patagonia. He knew he had to do something with his life, he had grown complacent in his 9-5 job and was looking for some sense of adventure. When he heard from a friend that had ridden his bicycle from New Jersey to Argentina, Jed’s ears perked up. And when that friend told Jed that he thought he had what it took to make that journey too, Jed dared to believe him.
What Jed remembered when he told his parents about this outrageous and daring idea was that they had done something similar many years earlier. They had walked across America in the 1970s in search for themselves and eventually even ended up on the cover of National Geographic because of it. Though he had thought of his bike ride independent of his parents’ input, I wonder if he would’ve been as quick to jump to the idea if they hadn’t paved the way 40 years earlier.
The more that I’ve thought about this topic, the more I’ve been amazed at just how much of my life I owe to the decisions and dreams of people who came before me. While my choices are mine and mine alone, I can still honor those who paved the way for me and my decisions. I can appreciate their accomplishments instead of highlighting all they didn’t do. I can cherish those God-following moments of others because if they hadn’t been as daring as they were, I might not be where I am today.
How do you practically honor those who came before you?
What are you doing to leave a legacy for the next generation?