What do we leave behind when we’re gone?
Arguably, no more than a fading memory, cherished by our loved ones, insignificant to others.
Yet most of us strive for recognition, for what it’s worth.
Some of us will end up cast in statues, depicted in portraits or discreetly leaving their names on a rusty bench in a leafy park.
Even when still alive, we’d like to be remembered, ideally praised for our significant achievements.
Legacy is a key part of our psyche.
Our culture is a framework made up of myriads of references.
We learn to come to terms with the fleeting nature of this environment when the icons we’ve admired or simply followed for most of our life start passing away.
It can feel shattering when we are hit by the news that someone is gone or no longer physically exists, whether we knew them or not and whether it was an expected or sudden death. When this happens, there is an immediate glitch in our mind and our templates—as though there is a short circuit when a bulb goes off and all the electricity trips. Reality as we knew it is no longer reality as we know it.
Angelica Attard Psy.D., Psychology Today
Comedians, singers, sportsmen and women, TV presenters, politicians and monarchs, all those celebrities are the actors of a vivid subconscious tapestry.
When a star goes away, it paints a dark spot on the backdrop of our lives.
When the sky is pitch black, we’re gone.
Interestingly though, in this day and age, personalities never fully vanish: they still act, speak, sing and jump around, albeit in digital format.
Most of them we would never have encountered in the real world anyway.
But it feels comforting to replay the memories we’ve attached to their performances.
Even if we feel sad when we know for sure that we’ll NEVER be able to meet them in person.
There used to be a time, not so long ago, when being recorded on camera was reserved to the elite. Obviously it’s not the case anymore: on Youtube, Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, Mrs Nobody who passed away last year - fairly unnoticed - is now on par with the Queen, if you simply bother watching her inconspicuous rambling.
There’s a major difference though: Mrs Nobody didn’t have the same kind of “impact”. She wasn’t part of History at a series of milestones, she didn’t have the opportunity to become a household name. It seems to be the case for most “influencers”, whose impact on someone else’s life tends to be limited to their ephemeral stories.
Swipe left, they’re gone.
True icons, whether you like them or not, elicit a flow of memories.
Across 70 years and 214 days of reign, Queen Elizabeth II shook hands with Churchill, JFK, Gorbachev / Reagan, Paul McCartney, Elton John, etc. (and most recently Bojo and Liz Truss, soon to be forgotten).
That’s not your average Youtuber. It probably explains the 10-mile queue when she was lying in state.
Great songs evoke personal and collective experiences.
As far as I’m concerned, “Wind of Change” (1991) is probably one of the best examples in terms of historical significance. This anthem was the soundtrack of so many hopes when the iron curtain was torn open by a wave of freedom.
A song still worth playing today, if only to conjure good spirits…
Speaking of legacy, the late Mikhail Gorbachev probably plunged into inconsolable sadness when he witnessed the invasion of Ukraine, he who had triggered the liberation which inspired Klaus Meine to write those unforgettable lines:
Let your balalaika sing What my guitar wants to say
In the grand arch of history, their legacy still stands a chance to mark the start of a new era rather than the short span of a broken dream.
By the way, here are a few photos I took in Kherson, Ukraine in 1994, 3 years after the release of Wind of Change. I’ll leave you with those pictures and another one I shot last Saturday in Westminster.