Charles Hayes on the ripples of our lives


Home-brewed philosopher and writer Charles D. Hayes is one of my favorite contemporary thinkers. His 2004 book, The Rapture of Maturity: A Legacy of Lifelong Learning, is an unsung classic. Yesterday he published a blog piece, “Life’s Purpose: Ripples,” that I’d like to share with you. Here’s a snippet:

If you ask people how they would like to be remembered, you will likely be met with silence, often with a look of bewilderment. Legacy is not something that most people give a lot of conscious thought to apart from material bequests. Psychologically though, at a deep subconscious level, how and for what we will be remembered is far important than many of us realize. For some of us this becomes clear as time passes.

…One of the most inspiring writers I’ve encountered on the subject of mortality is Irvin D. Yalom, author of Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. Yalom is a highly regarded psychiatrist who has ventured farther than most into the figurative thicket of mortality.

…Yalom says of all of the ideas emerging from his practice none has been as powerful as the idea of rippling. He describes rippling as concentric circles of influence that we generate, often without being aware of what we are doing. These ripples become our legacy, and the ways we can spawn them are practically endless, bringing us back to time as a relentless taskmaster and as an overtly constraining force governing our very existence.

I recommend reading Charles’s piece in its entirety. It’s a quick, wise read, by one of our most thoughtful writers about the human condition.

Over the years I’ve written a lot about notions of “legacy work,” “body of work,” and the “butterfly effect.” This idea of rippling complements those concepts in the best of ways. It means that our good works — paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, in virtually any setting — can make a positive difference in the world, perhaps in ways we will never know or see.

If you’d like to read more along these lines, here are some past posts for your consideration:

Holiday reads: Fueling heart, mind, and soul (2015)

Defining, refining, creating, and redefining your “body of work” (2015)

“The Shift: Ambition to Meaning” (2014)

The “butterfly effect” and working as an educator (2011)

What’s your legacy work? (And how can you de-clutter your way to it?) (2011)

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