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Can We Be Remembered - Forever?

August 20, 2011

Being remembered forever - isn't that something a lot of people want? Not quite the fountain of youth - not quite actually living forever. But remembered forever - everyone after you will know you. But is it possible?

Well - you could have a building named after you.
But buildings get destroyed.
So that won't last forever.

You could have a city named after you.
But they get renamed too.
If you're lucky, like with St. Petersburg in Russia, maybe the name will come back.
But still - history shows that it won't last.

You could have a country named after you.
But even there - something like a war comes along and your name is gone.

You could invent something.
But - even there - the first example that I looked up to test the possibility - it's flawed at best. I looked up "phonograph". My assumption - that Thomas Edison invented the machine that played what we used to listen to all the time - records - aka the phonograph.
There's a few problems with that.
First - it won't be long before people don't even know what it is / was. Kids already don't know what an 8-track player was.
But - as it turns out - being known for the phonographs and records isn't entirely accurate. The first time the word phonograph was actually used was in a patent by F. B. Fenby, years before Edison's device. F. B. who?
And then there's the record itself. Emile Berliner was the first to use the record format that we used with the cylindrical groove running from the outside to the center. Emile who?
So you might be remembered for a long time - if you're lucky enough to have your name attached to something - correctly or not. Ask Christopher Columbus about that kind of thing.


So - there's a possibility that maybe you could be remembered for a long time at least. Maybe not forever . But you still want to hold out for that possibility - want to do something incredible to try to make it happen.

The question then - if you want to try anyway - is it worth the effort?

Here are the words from one person who accomplished a lot - and is one of the founding members of a group of writers and artists that is still famous. The man is Leonard Woolf - husband of Virginia Woolf - but famous in his own right.
His words, from Wireless Age Sep/Nov 1998 -

I see clearly that I have achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the past five to seven years would be exactly the same as it is if I had played Ping-Pong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda. I have therefore to make a rather ignominious confession that I must have, in a long life, ground through between 150,000 and 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.


Ouch.
Who wants to be remembered for that?
And was there something better that he could have done?


I'll supply the reference later in the article, but below is an author's comment of the book I'm reading now on what Leonard Woolf had to say about his own life -

These are the words of someone who wrote more than twenty books on literature, politics, and economics. Yet in the end it all seemed useless to him, a complete waste of time. As we think about all our own hard work — whether it is at home, at school, on the job, or in ministry — it is tempting to feel the same way: life is a bad business.


Seems depressing.

What's the point?


But wait - there still has to be something - some way - it can't be hopeless.

Well - let's take someone from the Bible.
Not Jesus - that's just not gonna happen - us being able to be like Him.

Let's get somewhat closer to reality.


Let's try Solomon.
He's still very famous - was very smart - very rich - and very messed up. Sounds like a good example to use. Seems like today's people who are very rich - think they are really smart - are really messed up.


Solomon is known for being the author of Proverbs.
Like my previous example of Edison - he's also the author of another book in the Bible - not so well known - Ecclesiastes.


I'd like to take a little side trip here - hope you don't mind. It may help provide a way to look at what this article is all about.

I think everyone must go through some dark days in their life - I know I have. Times (years for me) when you wonder why you were ever born and what is God doing to us on this planet - and being quite angry with Him for what's happening. Obviously - I don't feel that way anymore. One thing is to realize that just by being mad at Him - we are acknowledging His existence. Either that or we're mad at someone or something that we don't believe is even real!

Anyway - during those times, there are things that I have come across years later that I obviously did, but don't remember. One was literally copying verses from the Book of Psalms. If you're feeling down and want either company or something uplifting - David wrote some great verses. I came across the hand written evidence of that years later when doing some house cleaning with my wife (we didn't even know each other yet when I was copying them).

Another thing I just came across a couple days ago is related to the book that I mentioned earlier - Ecclesiastes Why Everything Matters, by Philip Graham Ryken. He has a reference to a book called When Everything You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough: The Search For A Life That Matters, by Harold Kushner.
When I first started reading Ecclesiastes, I was thinking it was something I'd never really understood before - never really got into. Then I came across the reference to Rabbi Kushner's book - and it brought me back to days past.

Back then - I was looking for answers to why life was so bad.
Now - ...


Back to the book - I'll finish my thought later.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon goes by the name Qoheleth. In his book, Ryken sets aside a whole section to talk about this word Qoheleth and what it means. Here's a portion of it -

Once we start to read Ecclesiastes for ourselves, the first question we need to consider is authorship. Who wrote this book? The opening verse seems to give us the answer, but it also raises a number of questions. It says, “The words of the Preacher” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). This seems straightforward enough, except that “Preacher” is not the only way to translate the Hebrew name Qoheleth. Some translators refer to the author as the Teacher, the Philosopher, or the Spokesman. Others prefer to leave his name untranslated and simply call him Qoheleth. So which translation should we choose?

Certainly it is safe to call the author “Qoheleth,” as I will often do in this commentary. Qoheleth is perfectly good Hebrew even if no one knows exactly how to put it in English. “Teacher” is also defensible, especially given what is said at the end of the book, that he “taught the people knowledge” (Ecclesiastes 12:9). Qoheleth was a public teacher. Yet “Preacher” may be the best translation of all. Let me explain.

The Hebrew root of the word qoheleth literally means “to gather, collect, or assemble.” Some scholars take this as a reference to the way the author collected various proverbs and other wise sayings together into one book. However, that is not the way this form of the word is used anywhere else in the Bible or other Hebrew literature. Instead, the verb qoheleth refers to the gathering or assembly of a community of people, especially for the worship of God. So Qoheleth is not so much a teacher in a classroom but more like a pastor in a church. He is preaching wisdom to a gathering of the people of God.

This context is clearly reflected in the title this book is usually given in English. “Ecclesiastes” is a form of the Greek word ekklesia, which is the common New Testament word for “church.” An ekklesia is not a church building but a congregation — a gathering or assembly of people for the worship of God. The word “ecclesiastes” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word qoheleth. Literally, it means “one who speaks in the ekklesia” — that is, in the assembly or congregation. So Qoheleth is a title or nickname for someone who speaks in church. In a word, he is the “Preacher.


So - I'll just call him Qoheleth.

If we look at Qoheleth - he's got everything today's modern power seeking man would want - great wealth, more than anyone else before him - great wisdom, more than anyone before or after him - and an incredible number of women, with 700 wives and princesses and 300 concubines. For today's modern woman who's looking for wealth, power and all - just change the last part and you have the female version of Qoheleth.


Surely - Qoheleth was happy with his life. He literally had it all.

Let's see what he says in Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 first from the NASB --

ECC 2:18 Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity. Therefore I completely despaired of all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun. When there is a man who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill, then he gives his legacy to one who has not labored with them. This too is vanity and a great evil. For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity.


That sure doesn't sound good.

Ecclesiastes isn't always easy to understand - so now I'll put in the NIV translation as well -

Ecc 2:17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.


It's still bad.

Even if we do manage to make something out of our lives - when we're gone - it's left for someone else to mess it up.
How depressing is that?

Back then - I was looking for answers to why life was so bad.

And this book helped?
How can that be?
How can a book with such a hopeless message actually be of help?


Remember what I said about David - in the Psalms he wrote - he can provide either company in our misery or hope for relief of that same misery?

Same goes for Qoheleth.
He goes on and on about how meaningless everything is. Certainly provides for the company part of the saying - misery loves company.

But think about what Paul writes in Romans 8:8-27 --

Future Glory

Ro 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Ro 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Ro 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.


OK - the misery part is the same - present sufferings, frustration, subjection, bondage, Etc.

But where did the eager expectation for the future come from?
Did Qoheleth have any of that?


Here's what he says about the chances of being remembered at all, let alone forever, in Ecclesiastes 1:11 --

Ecc 1:11 There is no remembrance of men of old,

and even those who are yet to come

will not be remembered

by those who follow.


And then Qoheleth goes on about how meaningless everything is.
Soon we reach the part used for a famous song Turn! Turn! Turn!, by the Byrds - which came from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 --

A Time for Everything

Ecc 3:1 There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:


Ecc 3:2 a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

Ecc 3:3 a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

Ecc 3:4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

Ecc 3:5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

Ecc 3:6 a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

Ecc 3:7 a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

Ecc 3:8 a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.


which also sounds most depressing.

And yet -


Back then - I was looking for answers to why life was so bad.
Now - ...

Qoheleth write a lot about "under heaven" and especially about "under the sun".
He writes about what happens here on earth.

Like Paul's assessment in Romans chapter 8 - things aren't so good here on earth - under heaven - under the sun - from our point of view.


But what about from Heaven - from above the sun - from God's point of view.


In Romans, Paul wrote

Ro 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

So in spite of all the negativity - there's an acknowledgment that there is a purpose to all of it - and a time for everything.


The chorus from Turn! Turn! Turn! says -

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)

There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)

And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

So in spite of all the negativity - there's an acknowledgment that there is a purpose to all of it - and a time for everything.


Really - where did that come from - a purpose?

It may tend to get lost - but if we continue with the verses after a time for war and a time for peace, we find verses 9-14 --

Ecc 3:9 What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.


He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

So in spite of all the negativity - there's an acknowledgment that there is a purpose to all of it - and a time for everything.

We just don't understand it.

God does it so that men will revere him.

And yet - there it is - the purpose - so that we will revere God.

And yet - there it is - the timing - after we are no longer under the sun.


Want to be remembered in this life?
Think you can do it be being rich, famous, powerful, something else?

In the words of Qoheleth -

Ecc 1:11 There is no remembrance of men of old,

and even those who are yet to come

will not be remembered

by those who follow.


In the words of Philip Ryken -

If we are looking to make a profit, we should not live for what this world seems to offer, but only for the everlasting gain that comes with trusting Jesus for the free gift of eternal life.


Want to be remembered?
Want your life to have meaning?


Somewhere in the midst of copying Psalms - in the midst of reading about Qoheleth - and not consciously remembering any of it - it seems there was a seed planted. A seed of hope. realization that God was the answer - realization that the goal wasn't about this life - it's about the next.


Want to be remembered?
Want your life to have meaning?


As I approach the time to retire - I look back at what I've accomplished - and feel a lot like Leonard Woolf. I'm not famous like him . Even here on this site - few readers actually know who I am. I look at what I accomplished at work - I can't help but wonder - would it really have been much different if I wasn't there? The place wouldn't have been shut down if I wasn't there. It would still exist had I not been there - just as it will continue to exist after I leave.


Back then - I was looking for answers to why life was so bad.
Now - ...

Now I'm not trying to be remembered -
not trying to be famous -
not trying to be rich -
not trying to
be anything.

And that helps a lot.


Want to be remembered?
Want your life to have meaning?

don't try to be remembered -
don't try to be famous -
don't try to be rich -
don't try to
be anything.


2Ch 1:11 God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”


Solomon - Qoheleth - didn't ask for any of these things - and yet God gave them to him.
Unfortunately, Solomon - Qoheleth - also didn't stay with God all the time.

Ecc 1:16 I thought to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

Ecc 2:1 I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

And so it went - on and on - lot's of "I" and not so much God.


And there lies the way to be remembered.

Not so much "I" - and lots of God.


From time to time I close an article with something like - "hope to see you in Heaven".

You don't know who I am.

But I pray that God uses what I write to help someone come to Him - or stay with Him - that this site is used for His purpose.


In that way - maybe I'll be remembered forever - not because I want to be remembered or even tried to be remembered - or even to be known - but because I tried to share the gifts that God has given me -

eternal life through Jesus

and a chance to spread His word through this site.


Want to be remembered? your life to have meaning?

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Want to be remembered? your life to have meaning?

Be anonymous - share the Word of God.

The person you share with may not know you -
but they may experience eternal life because you shared.

And that - that's what the meaning of life is all about -
and the time - that would be now.


Can we be remembered - forever?

Yes - I believe we can - if that's not the goal.


Hope to see you in Heaven!