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For Posterity

For future generations.

I don’t know when exactly it started, but I recall that I had a strange filter for decisions throughout my teenage years: These are the stories we will tell our grandchildren.

An image of myself as an old-man in a rocking chair, sharing some story, often came to mind.

Now, this mental model seemed forgotten after a teenage break-up—those tend to shake things up a bit. But in recent years, the image has once again started to appear, albeit not yet as frequent as before.

The Long Now Seminar Becoming a Better Ancestor heightened this mental model further. Roman Krznaric, the author of The Good Ancestor, shows a diagram of the dead, the living, and future unborn generations.

Scale of unborn generations
A scale of unborn generations from The Good Ancestor

He has you picture your grandchildren’s faces and then picture them 30 years in the future. Think about the joys they might experience and the challenges they might be facing. Now think about them at their 90th birthday party—surrounded by friends, family, loved ones, and old work colleagues—have a look out the window, what kind of world is out there? Now come back and look at their old wrinkled face as someone comes over and puts a tiny baby into their arms. It’s their first great-grandchild. And they look into that baby’s eyes and ask themselves, what will this child need to survive and thrive for the years and decades ahead?

Just hold that thought for a moment.

Recognize that they are not alone in the world; they are part of a web of relationships: a web of people, a web of community, and a web of the living world—the air that they breathe, the water they drink.

So if we care about their legacy, if we care about their future welfare, we have to care not just about their life, we have to care about all life.

For posterity.