A couple of days ago, I read an obituary of a lady who had demised at a very young age and in tragic circumstances. Tributes from her family members, in the TOI, appeared more like a professional resume than an obituary column. It gave out details of her accomplishments, awards and degrees in great detail. It went on to highlight the fact that she was a brilliant student all throughout and was a gold medalist in her Masters! I said to myself, how did it matter now and why mention all that here. It made no sense either to the dead or to the living.
We are aware of that old story around Alfred Nobel, the Swedish scientist, and how the idea for the Nobel Prizes apparently came from a remarkable incident of careless journalism. For the benefit of those who aren’t aware, let me re-write the incident.
Alfred Nobel patented the explosive dynamite in 1867 and became very wealthy as the owner of a vast international explosives empire.
In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludvig died. A French newspaper inadvertently announced Alfred’s death instead, under the title, “Le marchand de la mort est mort” ( “The merchant of death is dead.”). The article called him the “dynamite king” and reported, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people, faster than ever before, died yesterday.”
Upon reading this obituary, Alfred Nobel was immensely distressed at the prospect of how the world possibly could remember him. He wanted to leave a better legacy for himself and rewrote his will. Nobel, thereafter, left 94 percent of his estate to institute five prizes to celebrate the greatest achievements in chemistry, physics, physiology/medicine, literature, and peace. He didn’t want to be remembered as the “Merchant of Death”.
However, an article in the Times of India, tagged below, must have set many a minds thinking. It reflects the reality of our times and questions the futility of our quest to leave a legacy, for posterity. The article states, “ It is just our unrealistic notion and bloated sense of self-importance that compels us to do something by which the world should remember us. Alas, no one remembers. The moment this harsh truth dawns on you, your desire to build an empire that outlives you, disappears”. Simple said, the world is not in sync with our sentiments: It simply doesn’t care! We are unnecessarily bothered about what the world would think of us not just when we live but also when we die.
What I observe is, we all have learnt the art of LIVING and what we now need to learn is the art of LEAVING!
More we leave, more we live!!