Everything that exists or has ever existed leaves an imprint on eternity. For better or for worse, we are all shedding legacy constantly, like an over-furry dog under a very hot sun. Every thought you ever had changed the way the universe unfolded if only because that thought must now be included in the history of how things did unfold. Every thought has what Alfred North Whitehead called “the formality of actually existing.” So the core of your legacy, whether you are the president of a superpower or a street person, is your imprint on actuality. Since actuality has many layers, the imprint you leave has many layers.
A fairly important layer, for those of us presuming to incarnate as social mammals, is the interpersonal. Every social transaction you have ever had has left an imprint on the unfolding of actuality. And of course your imprint on the interpersonal layer will have light and dark elements, just as the interpersonal realm has imprinted on you with light and dark elements. Conventionally, people look back at their lives with greater emphasis on the moments of impression they received, the twists and turns of interpersonal plot lines, the traumas that happened to them and so forth. So often they forget to look at the imprint that they have been making on others and on life in general. If you are aware that you are continually imprinting yourself onto actuality, and you are willing to work on your imprint alchemically, then you are a Magician. If you are concerned about the moral impact of your imprint, and are willing to do something about it, you are on the road to sainthood. If you take responsibility for your imprints, and are focused on making them as impeccable as possible, you are a Warrior. Refuse to take responsibility for your imprints and you engage a different set of archetypes — victim, slacker, vampire, etc.
One bit of good news is that your legacy isn’t over. Since you are reading this, you are still incarnate, and therefore you are still imprinting this reality in all sorts of ways. Every day you are leaving all sorts of imprints — cognitive, moral, interpersonal, economic, ecological, bioenergetic, etc. Think of how many actions you take during the course of a day that have an imprint on the economy, or that leave a carbon footprint, another form of imprint. Putting coins in a vending machine, turning the key in the ignition, the most minute actions you can think of leave imprints. You are outputting a bioenergetic signature heartbeat by heartbeat that affects the living bioenergetic field of the species. Orgasms (interpersonal or autoerotic) are highly energetic events where personal energy potently interpenetrates the collective bioenergetic field leaving an imprint (for better or for worse). Wilhelm Reich, from what I understand, essentially believed that the world was being destroyed by bad orgasms (see The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Reich). A loving relationship makes one kind of imprint and an abusive one another. So too, a boundary-dissolving erotic orgasm where there is a loving oceanic merger makes one kind of imprint, and a sex-as-a-metaphor-for-power exploiting-the-other-person-as-an-object orgasm leaves a very different imprint. To paraphrase Martin Buber, there are I/thou imprints and I/it imprints.
Think of yourself as a 180-pound butterfly having a very big butterfly effect on many layers of the unfolding actuality. (If your point of view is metric, then think of yourself as an 86-kilo butterfly.) What magnifies your butterfly effect exponentially is uniqueness. In the mind field of the human species, a unique thought alters the field of information more than a few hundred million people chanting Allah, which is already a well-worn groove in the field. As is pointed out in the ancient lines of the I Ching — the right person thinking the right thoughts alone in his room affects things thousands of miles away. When it comes to shifting the collective psyche, it is not one person, one psychic vote. If you have more energy and uniqueness you have more votes. Consider the example of a unique and high-energy mutant like Bob Marley. He was not born to a rich and influential family, but his uniqueness and creativity were such that his music has never stopped reverberating around the planet for a single second since his death. If you are an artist or creator of some kind and imprint yourself onto a medium — such as a book, recorded audio/video, or even onto a single piece of canvass or block of stone, then it is possible for your imprint to be magnified, for better or for worse, in the collective psyche. The imprints you create can, of course, be hijacked, exploited, or distorted — in the photo Bob Marley seems to be reflecting on the blunt wrappers for sale in the head shop — but that’s a risk you take when you choose to imprint yourself on an interactive matrix — you never know for sure what is going to happen to the information you upload.
The aggregate of all the active imprints in the field of a large group of humans incarnating together, an entire nation-state for example, is called a “zeitgeist“. From German, this literally means “ghost” or “spirit” of a time. The Sixites, for example, had a different zeitgeist than the Fifties, a different style, a different look, a different legacy, and all of these differences amounted to a vast aggregation of imprints that continue to resonate in time and in eternity. An aggregation of your imprints is what people call “character.” But your character, the global aggregation of your imprints, is much more than the impressions you leave on others, it is also the aggregation of every private moment and thought. A thoughtful anti-shoplifting sign I just saw in the fitting room of a thrift shop here in Boulder concluded, “Character is what you do when no one is watching.”
So reflect on your legacy, your character, plus any imprint-magnifying artifacts you have created or intend to create (this website is the main artifact of my legacy, for example) and remember that even your backward gazing reflection is happening in the now where the lathe of actuality is spinning and you are cutting out of the infinite potential of the unmanifest, moment by moment, a legacy of imprints.