Did you know that there are orange, green and purple cauliflowers? Not only did you know it, but you have just had a baked green cauliflower for lunch? Well, in that case, you are much better informed than me. For a full story on how different varieties of cauliflower came to be please head to Wikipedia.
While I have to admit that I do not regularly daydream about cauliflowers, this was big news to me. It made me think. I thought about our heritage and our legacy. We come into this world with one and we leave this world with another. Although our stories may well be incompatible, I thought that we may not be that different to cauliflowers. If we grew into purple cauliflowers, would we always want to stay the same, strive to protect our heritage and build on it, or would we want something else, create a different existence for ourselves and perhaps leave an orange cauliflower legacy? Naturally, color is but one of a myriad of distinguishing features plants and humans can possess. But if we are all part of the same creation, then likening the life of a plant to our human journey on Earth may not be completely silly. Okay, maybe it is a little. But hey, until today I believed cauliflowers were only white.
I did a little poll with some of my friends and people I work with about what they thought made up their heritage and their legacy. Heritage, I heard, is what we are born into. We mostly cannot change it. It is our parents, our siblings, our relatives, our native languages, our home countries, our physical appearence and everything else we realistically could not choose when we were born. By the same token, I was told that our legacies would be everything else we decided to do with our lives. Hence, we can change a lot of those things we were born into, but they would still be part of our heritage; that is, unless we want to hide it for some reason. I would like to stress that for us humans legacies will invariably be about what we do, what we achieve and who we become, rather than having much to do with the color of our skin or any other physical feature.
Building our legacies may or may not include reliance on and maintaining our heritage. When I look at my life, I cannot say that everything I have ever done has been based on my exactly knowing what kind of legacy I wanted to leave. Instead, my path often took shape based on my beliefs, thoughts, decisions and actions which I thought were right for me at the time. Later I would realise I made mistakes, just as I made some good steps. Furthermore, our beliefs about who we are and who we can be are usually submerged in our preoccupations with daily life. So, despite clear benefits of making plans and setting goals, we may not always know where we are going. Simply staying alive is not a bad proposition when legacy building in 2016 around the globe may involve more or less the same things: getting a good education, getting a good job, earning money, getting a good partner or getting something good. And the “good” may be determined by the heritage of where we live. Ultimately, we may say that everything we do beyond what we inherited when we were born may become part of our legacy.
So finally my thinking about cauliflowers leads me to ask the logical question, “Which one is more important?” Should we value more that what we were born with or that what we have created and will leave behind? I must admit that word legacy does sound fatalistic to me, since I often hear about people’s legacies when they are no longer around. Many people courageously die for their heritage and that becomes their legacy. We can then argue that both heritage and legacy have collective and individual traits. How much individual we make it is up to us. Some would argue that we may not be able to choose how much of our heritage is built into our legacy. I believe that we do have a choice, but we may not exercise that choice all the time. Similarly, we may not always know why we do not want something we already have or why we want something we do not have. I do not need all the answers to feel good or bad about my life. If what I am doing at the moment is making me feel fulfilled and of service to others, then the question about the importance of my legacy can easily be replaced by my belief that my life is worthwhile. In the end, does anyone else’s opinion matter? Just as purple cauliflowers will still exist without me knowing about them, we will exist and make our contribution in this world regardless of how important someone thought we were.