Channels of Legacy

I am perpetually filled with wonder at how a painting or a piece of music from another time and place can affect us; how they reach out across centuries and different lands, transcending spoken language and culture.  I remember tears flowing, standing in the caves in France and feeling the life of the animals in the ancient paintings. The echoes of our ancestor artists seemed to swirl around us, touching hearts and flowing through the blood in our modern veins. (

Last week in Los Angeles, at a musician’s memorial service with a hundred other people, I gratefully recognized his sense of humor, passion for music and life. I felt his ongoing presence embedded in the music he bequeathed us.

Legacy! We so often think of legacy as goods and money; we carefully review our wills to pass on our possessions to others. But there is so much more to bequeath, just as we have inherited so much — without knowing. Our unconscious legacies and their effects need to be carefully considered as much as property and bank accounts.

As we gather momentum (age) and remember events in our lives, we enter a developmental stage described as Generativity. Generativity is an important aspect of healthy adult development. It is defined as “a concern for people besides self and family that usually develops during middle age; especially  a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation.” (Erik Erikson It’s opposite in this model is stagnation. How do we avoid stagnation, what do we pass on to the future?

We bequeath legacies of words, ideas, beliefs and act as channels from previous generations, often without realizing.

When I was younger and when I (rarely) thought of ideas, spoken words or thoughts, it seemed that they just evaporated without a trace. Now, thanks to neurolinguistics, and other related areas, we know that “every word is cognitively defined (unconsciously) in terms of a conceptual frame. Frames are structures of ideas. Ideas are carried out in the brain by neural circuitry.” In other words, ideas, thoughts, “don’t float in the air, they live in your neural circuitry”. Over time they form frames which influence the way we see the world.” (Charles Fillmore in George Lakoff <>)

Consider that this starts in early childhood. Each time an idea is activated, the process strengthens the frames of meaning. Consequently, when we don’t bring our values to consciousness ( then to be discussed and, possibly, to adjust our frames) our world views can become rigid influencers operating outside of our awareness. They are passed on to younger generations, whether we consciously subscribe to them or not. We hear ourselves mouthing old clichés and shudder with revulsion – of course you can teach old dogs new tricks!

As I build momentum (age) I am revisiting an ongoing interest in values and framing, which probably started when I moved from one culture to a very different one as a teenager. Many of the things I then took for granted – “it goes without saying” types of things – weren’t operating anymore in the new country. And of course they were unsaid and I was constantly confused. I remember feeling resentful because I thought my parents had misinformed me about how the world “really was”. So I busily got to work trying to adapt – a common experience for people moving from one culture to another. But there was a nagging doubt at the root of my adaptation especially when my values clashed with those of the culture in which I lived.

What so important about values? Who can take issue with “Work hard and do the best you can” or “Tell the truth” or “Be kind”? These are common currency in many culture, but what of “everyone deserves respect “?

Values and politics.

A recent revisiting of the work of George Lakoff reveals how important values and frames are to the political process and how they are often the reason people vote against their best interests (for example, the current conflict about who gets healthcare coverage). <;

Values and consumerism

The field of marketing considers understands that values are important enough to warrant university courses, a myriad articles and books. Marketing expert and cultural anthropologist, Clotaire Rapaille, in his book “The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Live and Buy as They Do”, describes the frames that form our Cultural Sense of Self. These invisibly shape our behavior and he refers to them as archetypes which, if we become aware of them, help us understand the differences in other cultures and “give(s) us unprecedented freedom over our lives.”

It is worth thinking about!

Since others are so interested in our values and frames for their benefit, I will share some of what I am learning about in later blog entries, while I continue to explore my assumptions/values and reframe them.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s