This past weekend, the tragic news of Iain M. Banks’ death broke. I’m sure you were all as saddened as I was to hear about it.
Really, I have only a passing familiarity with his work, but I know he was an exceptionally talented author, one of those about whom I always said ‘You know, I really want to get more into his work. I really want to sit down and read The Wasp Factory properly,’ or ‘I remember The Crow Road as being fantastic, but I haven’t seen my copy in years; I’ll have to find it.’ His sudden passing has taught me one thing: there’s never as much time left to do all the things you want to do as you’d like to think there is. So, why put anything off? Read the books you want to read. Write the books you want to write. If you can, take the holiday you’ve always wanted to take. Do whatever it is you want to do, and don’t leave it till next year, or ten years’ time, or ‘until the children have left school/I’ve lost a bit of weight/the house is painted/whatever the excuse du jour is.’ Life is, at once, the longest thing you’ll ever experience, and as short as the blink of an eye. It’s running out, even now. Stop wasting it.
I’m also thinking about something that applies, mainly, to people who write or create – so, in other words, everyone, because we all create something of note during our lifetimes – and that is: are we proud of the legacy we’ll leave behind us?
I hope Iain M. Banks was proud of the long list of wonderful books he knew he was leaving behind, to stand as a testament to his memory. I’m sure he and his family wished the list could have been much, much longer; as a body of work goes, however, it’s pretty monumental. For those of us who don’t have a memorial quite as impressive as Banks’, though, the question remains the same. What are we doing to ensure we live a life of which we can be proud, and what are the important things to leave in our wake?
It has often been said that ‘you can’t bring it with you,’ and I’ve always known this to be true. I’ve never been a person who wished for huge earthly riches or who put any store in status or belongings or anything like that. All I’ve ever wanted, as a person, is to be proud of what I do, and to do something with my life of which I can say ‘I spent my time well.’ I have no great desire to amass anything in terms of wealth or belongings; I hope all I leave behind me is a list of books, a pile of good memories, and a whole lot of love.
So, get stuck into this new week with gusto, and make the best use of each day. I read a wonderful book at the weekend, of which I’ll do a review in a week or two, which takes as its message: ‘Always be kinder than is necessary.’ I thought it was a lesson which, if everyone took it on board, would save the world. Always be kinder than is necessary, and your legacy will look after itself.
RIP, Iain (M.) Banks. The world of letters is lessened by your passing.