I’ll bet you 10-to-1 that you’ve never heard of Ermal Cleon Fraze. I’ll bet you 100-to-1 you’ve used his invention.
In 1959, while at a picnic with friends and family, Fraze, a machine tool operator in Ohio, discovered he had left his "church key" can opener at home, forcing him to use a car bumper to open cans of beer. Fraze decided to create an improved beverage opening method that would eliminate the need for a separate device, leading to his creation of the pull-tab opener. The original model had a removable, throwaway tab but in the 70s Alcoa (to whom the patent was sold) developed the non-removable tabs used today.
How many people have ever remembered and thanked Ermal when opening a beer or soda pop? My guess would be one in a zillion. While Fraze died in 1989 and I imagine his family still cherishes memories, the scope of his recognized influence is teeny-tiny on a world scale. In another hundred years remembrance of his name and accomplishments will have been long buried in history’s dustbin.
These reflections are in no way meant to diminish Fraze. My point is that what we do while alive should be the focus as opposed to grave concerns about what people think or remember of us when we’re not. History is rife with examples of those for whom their legacy appeared (or appears) to take precedence over life in the flesh. Laboring to be remembered favorably by history has led to neglected children, broken marriages, destroyed friendships, and all sorts of other destructive consequences. The same mindset impels folks to seek the adulation of anonymous crowds while letting connections with family members and friends dwindle away to nothing.
I wonder why legacy is so much more important to some than nurturing relationships which add meaning and joy to daily life. After all, how – or whether – one is remembered after one’s last breath will make no difference whatsoever to the dead. But what one does while still breathing can make all the difference in the world to oneself and others.
NOW! That’s the issue. I’m alive NOW and you are – if you’re reading this – alive NOW. In his poem Odes, the Roman poet Horace first used the Latin phrase carpe diem: seize the day! This is not to say we forget there is tomorrow. But the critical moment in any of our lives is the present one. In the end, anyone who relishes life and strives to do good day-by-day will leave the world a better place.