Sir Boyle Roche famously said, “Why we should put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity ever done for us?”
Quite a lot, actually.
We were born into a culture that took generations to create. The people who came before us built a civil society, invented a language, created a surplus, enabling us to each grow up without contributing much at all for the first fifteen years of our life.
Posterity, as created by the folks that came before, solved countless problems so we could work on the problems that lie ahead.
Posterity gave us jazz, the scientific method and medicine. It gave us a stable platform to connect, to invent and to produce.
Each of us is here, and is able to do what we do, because others did something for posterity.
In many ways, our contributions to each other and our culture are a tiny repayment of our huge debt to people we’ll never get to meet. People who sacrificed and stood up for posterity. Otherwise known as us.
I’ve never met anyone who honestly felt that they would have been better off living at the beginning of any century other than this one.
And our job is to build the foundations necessary for our great grandchildren to feel the same way about the world they’re born in.
*Originally published on sethgodin.typepad.com
Seth Godin has written eighteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything.
Image courtesy of LoboStudioHamburg.