That’s the metaphor we often hear to describe the transmission of a vision or an inspiration or a philosophy (or something) from one generation to the next. We pass the torch. We try to impart what we have gleaned along our way. Some of this may be ego based and self-centered, rooted in the desire to have a legacy or some impact lasting beyond our years. We have all seen how vanity struggles to extend beyond the grave. We know, though, that enterprises, empires, pyramids and plans all crumble eventually.
So I’m not referring to that type of torch passing….the banner waving, standard bearer corporate mouthpiece or those who make a living by capitalizing on someone else’s glamorized and photo shopped public image (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, etc.)
I’m referring to the torch of the sea faring captain, the house painter, the traveling salesperson, the grocery clerk, the Wal Mart greeter…the everyday sort of us…
What torch have they?
What torch any of us?
Here are the overview numbers: over 151,000 people die each day (world wide), that’s 55 million plus each year.
Did they each have a torch and did they get to pass it?
Closer to home and even more poignant, over 500,000 Americans die of some form of cancer every year. I say more poignant because with a terminal diagnosis comes the real time opportunity, however short or lengthy, to attempt to pass your torch intentionally.
So what is it that we are actually trying to pass along?
I understand that whatever it is will be deeply personal. I gather that it’s a summation of sorts…the distillation into essences of what we’ve experienced…the truth(s) we may have uncovered…the wisdom we may have earned…
But to what end?
What is the purpose, what is the impulse that stirs in us as the numbers of our days dwindle?
I have come to understand that what we so desperately would like to do is to help someone else avoid the mistakes we ourselves have made and the pain we have experienced as a result.
That’s the torch…we’d like to do our small part towards the easing of human suffering…for family, friends and strangers alike. “Learn from my missteps”, we want to say…don’t eat that type of mushroom…don’t stay too long at the office…don’t smoke…don’t take tomorrow for granted…and on and on…the things we wish we could just pass on so that no one else need suffer from them again…
It’s an act of love really.
It’s a torch that’s worth passing.
Which brings us, the living, to the question: Do we have to wait until the end before we try to pass this along?