Legacy in art: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

“And when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?”

So goes the last song of the Hamilton soundtrack.

Do you ever worry about your legacy? Do you ever worry about leaving behind a piece of you, something that keeps you in someone, anyone’s memory?

I’m fast approaching 25 (hello, quarter life crisis!) and I sure do.

I’ve always been worried about legacy. You have one life. What do you leave behind to prove you lived it?

“I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory.”

What if you died today? Wouldn’t you like to leave behind a part of your soul to stay immortal long after your mortal remains have disappeared? No, Voldemort, I’m not talking about horcruxes. Wouldn’t you like your art to make you immortal?

I’ve always been drawn to art that discusses legacy. It so happens that there’s a lot of it out there, starting with Hamilton the Musical. In the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton keeps rapping about a legacy, right up to his death. I never thought I would say these words in this order but I can relate so bad to this rap god founding father.

“I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
When’s it gonna get me?
In my sleep, seven feet ahead of me?
If I see it comin’, do I run or do I let it be?
Is it like a beat without a melody?”

Honestly, same.

“Legacy. What is a Legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see”

A few years back, a Tamil movie named Uttama Villain released in India. In a state that constantly churns out formulaic, box office hits, this was one movie that had a huge impact on me for its storyline–once again, about legacy.

In the movie, Kamal Haasan is a superstar who acts in said formulaic, box office hits. One day, he receives two pieces of shocking information that make him question his legacy, wondering what he’s leaving behind both as an actor and a common man. The story maybe straightforward but it’s also very nuanced. It’s a movie within a movie, both about achieving immortality through art.

“விதைத்திடு உன்னை போல் ஒரு உயிரை, உயிர்த்து விளங்கும் என் கவிதை விளங்கும்”

“Sow a life like yours, a poem that revives my life,” sings Kamal in the movie with the movie. In his real life (within the movie itself), he encourages his son to pursue his dream of screenwriting, so close to his own career. Once again, bringing in the theme of immortality through memory.

“Maalaadhadhu kalaiyum, kaviyum! Maayaadhadhendrum nam arivum, anbum!”

“Unending is the story and poet. Undying is intelligence and love.” The movie ends with these lines in a song playing in the background. And is there any better line to describe legacy through art?

An artist never really dies when they’ve left behind so much of their own art.

Does an artist really die? You pour your life into your art. As long as the art remains, aren’t you immortal?

Perhaps my most favorite lyric from all of Hamilton is this:

“And when my prayers to God were met with indifference
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.”

Art is your prayer for deliverance. And you are the only person who can answer it.

Shouldn’t you be creating more?

Shouldn’t you be picking a pen up now?

11 thoughts on “Legacy in art: Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

  1. The strife for fame and immortality carries the seed for vanity and megalomania. Better is to to add beauty and goodness to this world that wasn’t there when you entered it, and make this goal the center core of your existence. Leaving big heritages are very often a heavy burden to carry for those who come behind you and often a source of squabbles among people you love or respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 🥺 Don’t die on me yet, Shruti! I’d never forgive you. (Yes, this is my comment, don’t judge.)

    But on a serious note, I try not thinking about my legacy? I just feel it’s too much for me to worry about it, like what if everyone secretly hates me??? Inside I’d hope I left behind a good legacy though… Maybe not as monumental as Hamilton, but it’s something, even if it’s one person.

    Liked by 1 person

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