In one part of our building there’s a long hall with several dozen historic pictures that appear to be taken sometime between or shortly following the World Wars. I know they’re supposed to instill a sense of pride and speak to an enduring legacy, but that’s not what struck me about them today. Walking past those pictures this morning it suddenly hit me that they all have one thing in common – Those people staring back at us from the other side of archival quality print are all dead, deceased, gone to meet their maker, and singing with the choir invisible.
I’m sure that every one of them did great and wonderful things or were very important in some way, but I’d be willing to stake real money that not one person in a thousand could tell me who they were or what they did. Maybe that’s morbid, but it’s a pretty stark reminder, just when I needed it, that some future hardworking and dedicated employee isn’t going to have a clue who we were or why our picture is hanging on some wall looking back at them. Sure, everything we’re doing every day seems awfully important, but in 100 years, you’ll be a luck one if someone is even using your picture as an office decoration. I’m not so far gone down the path of fatalism that I’m willing to concede that nothing we do day-to-day really matters, but sometimes it’s healthy to let nameless faces from the past remind us not to take it all so damned seriously. Chalk that up to stupid lessons I wish I’d have learned years ago.