(It All Depends)
My beliefs imply a set of values. This set of values is my conscience that grounds all my decisions and judgments about living. All of my primary relationships and community experiences are guided by these values. They instruct my living. They are focal to my entire existence. I am betting my life that they are true. Therefore, I will certainly want them to survive my death. The question is: how will I make this happen? There are three essential carriers at my disposal.
The first is my own presence. At this moment my being is this carrier. But the extent of this carrying is the extent of my physical existence. When my body dies, so does the carrier. The impact of my presence is the power of my values. So, what I wish to do is enlarge the impact of my presence so that the voice of my values will get the greatest possible hearing while I am alive. Nevertheless, my values can survive through the impact of my presence carrier.
The second is my influence carrier. Through the impact of my presence I can persuade other humans to adopt my values as their own. When these values become housed in the being of others their influence is multiplied. The greater this proliferation of adoption the greater their influence grows. There are two primary limitations to this influence. The first is the strength of commitment of those who adopt my values. The second is the longevity of their physical being. The tendency is for the power of the influence carrier to wane with time and the influence of more powerful carriers to increase. Nevertheless, my values can survive through the power of my influence carriers.
The third is my institutional carriers. Institutions are groups of people committed to the survival of mutually held values. Beyond survival, institutions are committed to values empowerment and celebration as social commodities that instruct cultural living. They are committed to making the culture, itself, the ultimate values carrier. Institutions survive both my personal death, the death of those I influence, and time, itself. My values can continue surviving through the power of my institutional carriers.
Here are the issues. My personal presence carrier is short-lived. And while my influence carrier lives longer it is also limited in longevity capacity. So, if I wish my values to survive my death and be determiners of consequent history, I will want to deliberately and profoundly invest in those institutions that are their most powerful carriers. I will do this if I am wise and believe my values are worthy of my own life bet. Look at history and choose wisely.
Robert T. Latham