Last week, while building a website for my father, I found myself having to sum up his life in a few phrases for his bio. How do you sum up a career of over 50 years and 80 years of living in a half a dozen concise sentences? How does one sum up any life and a legacy of work in a few phrases?
What is legacy? Writing my father’s bio made me think about this word because a legacy of work, like the one my father has created is one rooted in love- genuine, uninhibited, labor of love.
Think for a moment about Leonard Cohen, maybe you didn’t know his name, or know that that was his song. Maybe you tear up and get goose bumps when you hear “Hallelujah” or remember hearing “Everybody Knows” in High School and are reminded of some rebellious spark within. You don’t need to know who Leonard Cohen was or really much about him to connect with his music.
Cohen’s music was a part of him, his art, a pure creation and it is, in essence, his love.
When you appreciate someone’s work, you are emotionally connecting to it, you are sharing their love. It is not as much about what someone did or accomplished in a life, but how they caused people to feel and react. The ability to emotionally connect and inspire with people beyond one's lifetime is legacy.
My father has labored for years on his art. He has tried mixing various materials, paints, and perspectives that no one else understood or connected to at the times. Regardless of whether various works were popular with anyone, my Dad continued to create and express himself. Some years were very difficult, I remember his frustration when I was a child, I remember his melancholy. I remember my father feeling that no one understood his art, yet he continued to call himself an artist and never stopped creating.
Now, after a very scary summer, when the family thought my father’s body just couldn’t take the stress of multiple surgeries anymore, he is healthy and strong again. He is back in his studio inspired and driven by current events to paint, to express himself in the way he knows.
When someone is fueled by love, they can’t help themselves, they need to create.
It seems every other 30something on social media today is a self-labeled “Visionary” or “Conscious change maker”. I feel that more people are leading with image and what they want you to believe versus leading with love.
My father never sets out to paint thinking: “I should do this because it will sell…”. He just paints. It is his expression, his art, the type Leonard Cohen created - raw, real.
Set out to change the world without authentic intention and you probably won’t (at least for the better). Determine to live what you love and share that with the world, well then, you’re bound to inspire others.
Live what you love and love those who do, and you.