The endurance of your memory after your death

I have been doing a bit of reading lately and have the following question.
To what extent is it worth worrying about what memory we will leave behind once we pass away?
Cicero, in his speech Pro Archia say the following:
At present there is a certain virtue in every good man, which night and day stirs up the mind with the stimulus of glory, and reminds it that all mention of our name will not cease at the same time with our lives, but that our fame will endure to all posterity.

This is contrasted greatly by Marcus Aurelius, who says in Book IV (19) of Meditations:
He who has a vehement desire for posthumous fame does not consider that every one of those who remember him will himself also die very soon; then again also they who have succeeded them, until the whole remembrance shall have been extinguished as it is transmitted through men who foolishly admire and perish.

What I am asking your opinion of is this: Is it a worthy endevour to seek fame, as that is all that will be left, or is even this a waste of time?


It’s the year 2080 and my great-granddaughter is being tucked into bed by my daughter, LilSnoopy, who is currently 3. In 2080, she will be 80 years old.

*“Granny, tell me again about your mother.”

“Well, let’s see. My mother was a woman of God. She saw to it that all of her children were in church every Sunday from the day they were born. She was a prayer warrior and was able to believe God for the impossible, and she saw God perform miracles in her life and in the lives of those she loved. She was good to her family and honored her parents. She was good to her neighbors and was a faithful friend. She was always looking for a way to bless someone who needed it, even if she couldn’t really afford to. She couldn’t stand to see someone in need and would do whatever she could to help someone out. She was fun to be around, constantly learning new things and seeking out new experiences and went out of her way to see that her children and grandchildren went to the best school in the area. She went skydiving to celebrate her retirement and when she was 70 she and my father lived for 2 years abroad just for fun. She prayed every night that she would fulfill everything God created her to do, and that her descendants would know the Lord.”*

This is what I want my fame to be. I could care less if the world knows my name when I’m gone. But I want my descendants to know who I was and what I was all about, and I want to set an example for them to follow long after I’m dead. I hope and pray that when my daughter does describe me someday, those are things she would say about me. I realize it’s a process, though, and I’m not “there” yet.

Someday, though.

I tend to think the best possible epitaph would be that desired (and I believe achieved) by the late Paul Eddington (star of Yes Minister); “He did very little harm”.

Does Fame Bring Forth Madness?

*…In fame lies a heart of darkness: celebrity’s a curse.

So drive to work we toiling ants on freeways of routine;
Plot our courses on life’s graph sticking strictly to the mean -
We’re insects all, it matters not just in which web we’re caught,
Be it fame brings forth madness, or is to madness brought.*

A parochial quote eh, Roger E.

To clarify a bit, by ‘fame’ I am not necessarily talking about public recognition. I am talking about any sort of rememberance at all.

Being non-religious, I believed that apart from a rotting corpse, my memory was perhaps all that would remain.

Is even this too much to expect? Is it futile to hope for any kind of lasting recognition by anyone, as after a couple of generations, you will likely be forgotten?

I would like to agree with Cicero, but feel that Aurelius may be correct.

Cheers for the replies so far.

Most people are indeed forgotten. Only the most remarkable people live on in memory, and for the most part, only in certain circles - and often misunderstood (Who is Einstein? Some really smart guy, e=mc^2, etc!).

Consider the great artists, mathematicians, philosophers - or even the terrible ones - they all may be forgotten one day, but with luck, they wont. I hope they are not, because if they cannot be remembered, then few have any hope.

Odds are if your name is entered in any sort of government computerized database, some record of you will last a very very long time.

In my own case, if I haven’t done anything memorable by age 90, I’ll ensure my immortality by being “that ninety year-old guy who went on a killing spree for no reason whatsoever.”

That gives me 55 years to come up with something better, or at least not involving gunfire.

I think of it like ripples in a pond. The average person makes a very small ‘splash’, with ripples of his life passing through his or her friends, family, maybe some people who used the products he built, etc. I built a house, and I expect people will still enjoy the fruits of my labor for maybe 50 years or more after I’m gone.

Fame makes the splash a little bigger, and the ripples go out a little farther and last a little longer. Great fame (The Beatles, Shakespeare, Aristotle) might make a big splash and cause some big waves. But in the end, the ripples all fade away.

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

You don’t even have to kill anyone.

My plan is that when I finally contract terminal cancer or some such thing I’m going to find myself a high perch with four or five rifles and machine guns and bandoliers and bandoliers of blank ammo. And by the way, that’s ALL I’ll be wearing. I’ll get into a five-hour shootout with forty or fifty cops, SWAT teams, and if I hold out long enough they might even call in the army.

Damn it, I opened this thread to quote Ozymandias!

What is the point of recognition by others if you do not exist (ie have died) to appreciate that recognition.

Better to have the memory in your own mind before you die that by your existance you have made the world a better place.

Not related: Aussiemandias - more TISM (couldnt resist).

And the newspaper will still misspell your name.

…then start making recordings, videos, etc. of yourself now! I have home movies made by my late grandfather…some of them date back to 1930. I’ve transferred them to disc, so my grandchildren will know his face and voice.
The ancient egyptians had a saying “to speak the name of the dead is to give them life again”…so make sure that you are survived by lots of pictures and recordings.
Of course, I intend to assure my immortality…I’ll be entering “coldsleep” some time around 2053…and plan to emerge no later than 2503!
To all of you who scoff…you will just be a pile of moldy bones…and I’ll be moving into my new , indestructable body!

Hmmm… this will probably seem very odd, but I don’t think I have any desire to be remembered after the death of my physical body… I don’t understand why someone would to be honest :confused:

I’m quite comfortable with the idea I will be utterly forgotten after I die. Why should I be remembered? There’s nothing particularly important about me.

I’ve always felt that the desire to be remembered after death is ego-- that one is too “special” to be consigned to inevitable oblivion.