One of the truisms of my life is that I can learn from the past. When it’s my own history, I rely on my memories to influence my decisions about present and future moments.
That may not always be enough guidance, though. As a post-pandemic world emerges—and I want to cast out in new directions, adjusting to present circumstances in a new way—I will need sources other than my own perhaps-limited experience in order to live well.
In that case, what I learn from the past may be found only in the smallest pieces of evidence from former times—vestiges of truth embedded in the stories of others’ lives, others’ witness. Scraps of history, wisdom-fossils, shards of what was once significant and useful. (Scripture contains ample examples of that kind of material.)
I sometimes wonder whether those who come after me may want to examine what’s happening currently, looking for direction—especially if their lives have lost some of their moorings. I think about the footprints of others they will depend on—what bits and pieces of intellectual and emotional honesty, lasting truth or accurate depiction of facts. In addition to searching Scripture, they may also want to pore over the signs, marks and footprints that their spiritual forebears left behind. People like you and me.
Which brings me to an end-of-year question: What remnants of my life-witness have I taken steps to collect and preserve? What pieces of wisdom will my descendants have at their disposal when they want answers to life-questions? What trails can I blaze for their life journeys?
I hope that these final days of the calendar year provide motivation and opportunities to continue assembling or creating vestiges of my life.
For hope’s sake….
*In its oldest form, a vestige was the remaining mark or sign of something that was no longer present. The Latinate root vestigium (sole of the foot) loosely connects to “footprint”.