Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

Publications

Love or Legacy?

Res Publica

August 2016

by Aaron McKinney

Live a long happy life, have a family that loves you, children to carry on your name, but eventually be forgotten? Or die young and have your name carried on for all time as the most famous warrior to ever live? This is the question posed to Achilles in Homer’s Iliad. Although most of us will not become known as great warriors or have epic poems written about us, the debate between these two extremes is still intriguing. Which would you choose?

Some may be quick to answer this question one way or another, but others would sit and think for a long time.Both options have a certain allure to them.Who wouldn’t want a long happy life, to fall in love, to have children and grandchildren, and for them to idolize you? However, on the other side of the coin your name and legacy will never be forgotten. Writers, actors, and poets will tell your story and the whole world will know of your greatness for all the days to come.

Some people value family above all else and therefore would choose a long happy life with their families.To others fame and leaving their mark on the world is everything and they may quickly choose the second option as it is a guarantee that they will go down in history. Then there are those of us who hold neither family nor leaving a legacy in the highest value. If neither of these two things is held as your highest value then you may have a little more trouble answering this question than Achilles did. As we can clearly see by hisr efusal to fight when he was not recognized for his full worth, Achilles cared only for fame. Thus he made his decision to become a legend rather than to remain home from the war and live a long happy life with a loving family. Nonetheless, when Achilles’ friend, Patroclus, is killed by Hector, Achilles decides to return to fighting, thus showing that he does deeply care about those he loves.

Personally I have struggled with this question. I highly value my family and the love of others.I feel that one of the highest virtues of mankind is selfless acts of love and to love those around us. However, at the same time I wish to leave my mark on the world. If I have a family, they will remember me after I pass, but at some point I will be forgotten.Yet,with a life of fame I will be talked about for thousands of years to come, and the world might possibly never forget my name, just as we shall never forget the name of Achilles. However, it may be that this debate will finally come to an end. In modern society we are not forced to choose only one of these things as Achilles was,due to the warrior’s life that he led. For the first time in recorded history it is possible to have both.

We have the privilege of hoping to attain both of these things because our world does not revolve around killing, war, and death as Achilles’ did.In the modern world it is entirely possible to have both a loving family and a long life while still achieving massive success and becoming famous.The most famous people in ancient Greece were the great warriors because their society revolved around constant warfare.Our modern world is not like that;we do not seek out battles and wars and value the warrior above all else. Instead we value the leader,the peacemaker, and the wise. The most famous people of the contemporary era are men like Bill Gates – men who by no means had to sacrifice love and long life for glory, but rather have attained both. Gates was at one point the richest man in the world.

While he no longer holds that title, he is still incredibly wealthy and famous for his founding of Microsoft, one of the world’s biggest companies. He is also well known and will certainly be remembered for his philanthropic efforts. Despite his success, Gates still has a loving family, is 60 years old, and in good health. Gates is proof that the dichotomy posed to Achilles of long life and happiness or fame is no longer a question we need to answer in only one way. While each of us may never be as famous as men like Achilles or Bill Gates,we may still try to make a name for ourselves as best we can. For the first time in the history of mankind it is possible to achieve both of these things, and to have complete and total happiness.We can have the comforts of love and the glories of a legacy