Gero-Punk Lexicon: Legacy

Legacy can transcend the bounds of time-place-space.

Legacy can be transmitted through a fig. Or a raspberry.

Legacy goes in all directions, is deeply, fundamentally relational, and encompasses much more than mere material resources.

By “all directions,” I mean that legacy is trans- and inter-generational and not exclusively about transmission of something important to younger generations from older generations. Legacy can be transmitted in the other direction, as well, and in all directions at once.

By “fundamentally relational,” I mean that the creation of legacy happens in the context of cultivated, on-going relationships (And between both the “living” and the “no-longer-living”; that is, a member of a legacy-creating relationship may no longer be alive but still very present and influential to others, such as the role my friend Fred plays in my life); it is an expression of deep, consequential connections between humans.

By “encompasses much more than mere material resources,” I am pushing back at the perennial idea that legacy should be primarily about the transmission from elders to “youngers” of material resources: money, property, possessions.

A larger-mind view of legacy is that it is about intentionally creating the conditions necessary for a vital present and future life for not only our family members and other closest-in people, but for all living creatures. As such, members of multiple generations traveling through the life course simultaneously join together to pass-around (rather than pass-down) resources. These resources certainly may be material in the traditional sense of legacy – money, property, possessions – but also ethical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional (for example, “ethical wills,” spiritual traditions, creative projects, family traditions and practices).

Legacy may entail carrying on the traditions and practices of another person who is no longer living (or perhaps whom we never met in person but only through stories told about them), as well as adopting – embodying and enacting – their quintessential characteristics or commitments: a particular habit-of-speech, a jaunty hat they always wore, or their singular role in a larger system. In this way, the special person continues to exist but in a different form, and we are forever changed – and changing — because of our relationship with them.

Lastly, a larger trans-personal view of legacy encompasses non-human creatures, the planet, and our universe, as well as future humans whom we’ll not know because we will no longer be living, but for whom we care nonetheless (and who may someday in the future learn and care about us, their ancestors, as well.).

 

About Jenny Sasser

I am currently Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past fifteen years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (8th edition). I live in Portland, Oregon my dog Happy. My daughter Isobel is a Freshman at Bard College in New York state. I have been on the planet 47 years.
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One Response to Gero-Punk Lexicon: Legacy

  1. Pingback: Gero-Punk Lexicon: Legacy | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support

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