The Thought for the Day – Will Durant

The individual succumbs, but he does not die if he has left something to mankind. – Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: The Reformation

Will Durant (1885-1981), a regular contributor to this feature, was an American writer, historian and teacher. As a writer of both philosophy and history he did a brilliant job of doing what you pay us writers to do: provide insights into how and why us humans have and still continue to behave.

As he should have been, Durant was mindful that one person, writing about events that happened centuries before, can only chronicle so much but we’ve always felt The Story of Civilization is a landmark achievement in human letters. Durant talks not only about the major figures, movements and upheavals that attended the past, but also how people lived, their culture and habits, their art, philosophy and religion. Though parts of The Story of Civilization are attributed only to Will Durant, his wife Ariel (1898-1981), credited in later volumes, was right there with him the whole way.

Some might think that leaving something for mankind is reserved only for those who have lived down the ages. Nothing is further from the truth. What we read about in history books are merely those people and events someone wants to tell us about. Each one of us can leave our mark, be it on humanity, where we lived or on loved ones.

To do that though, we must be on our path. We are not going to do ourselves or our fellow beings any good if we waste our time ignoring where our hearts are telling us to go or how our instincts are telling us to get there. And we must do this every day. Being on our path some days and some years and not others will not get it done. We must be relentless in living the life we were meant to live.  

…but he does not die if he has left something to mankind.

What legacy are you going to leave us? Will it be the legacy of a life well lived or of time squandered? The choice, to a degree that astonishes some, is ours. If we get up every morning with the wisdom to know what we are meant to do with our lives and the courage to go out and get that life, we will live a legacy of a life well lived to anyone who bothers to look.

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Gaylon began stockpiling quotes in 1988.

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