Legacy: Portal to Immortality!


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

29 Mar 2019 – A legacy is an act, known and unknown, to ourselves and to others, in which we assert presence as identity, thoughts, and feeling. Legacy is, in some respects, an effort to preserve immortality.

In contrast to consciousness legacy, much of our life is passed unaware   each day, we create legacy in what we do; legacy has profound implications for ourselves and others.

In retrospect, especially among the elderly whose memory is still functional, there is an acute awareness of the consequences of their behavior. The self-defined good and bad, often brings regret they cannot relive joys of the past, and correct mistakes and offenses made in act and word.

I think here of the popular phrase among the Pennsylvania Dutch community: “We grow too soon oldttt, and too late smarttt.”  This bit of wisdom is interesting in that the saying arises among a way-of-life which advocates simplicity!

Life is demanding: “Too many times we are given the test first, and told what we should have studied for earlier.”  This is the bane of life for all ages. Life’s hard-won lessons exact tolls.

I find myself often thinking “Why did I say that or do that?”  Forgiveness is an important adjustment for self and others, even as the lurking voice of “anger” and “stupidity” loom quietly in contestation.

Being the Moment and Legacy

There is a great deal of popularity today regarding the pop psychology advocacy of focusing on the “immediacy of the moment,” in favor of pre-occupation with   past and/or future. There is virtue in this belief, especially for reducing tensions the past cannot be changed; only our thoughts of the past may change.

Focusing on the moment brings an acute awareness and consciousness of the beauty and mystery of life in each moment, offering respite from existing states of being. Many people believe their past is too traumatic to constantly experience and recall: PTSD!  Tragically, their future may also be perilous, offering little hope or opportunity.

A wrote a poem on the value of the “Moment,” years ago.  I subsequently revised the poem, entitling it: “Rabbit in Moment.” The poem values the power of the moment for losing self, and experiencing an “oceanic moment” of connection.

While focusing on all moments may not yield a similar profound response, there is certainly pleasure in the respite from a burdensome past and an uncertain future. Ahhh, but focusing on moments does not eliminate questions of immortality.

Even is one is confined to a cloistered medieval monastery cell, dutifully reciting chants and prayers, reflecting on human and spiritual essence, personal legacy remains a question. Efforts to deny and avoid personal legacy concerns by focusing on union with GOD (god, G-d), and by engaging in efforts to abandon self to a higher agency, may modify, but never, eliminate awareness of “legacy.” Legacy is the stuff life, it is the trail of identity and meaning one creates.

It is not uncommon for people to ask: “Will I be remembered?” “How will I remember myself?” What is my legacy? Certain legacies assume widespread importance, while others are limited to only a few people, or to self.

Legacy implies time! Legacies which endure across time ensure immortality, for good or for evil. Sometimes the simplest of acts assume an unanticipated timelessness.

Kilroy was Here!

This is the case for James J. Kilroy, as good an Irish name as any, for whom the timeless phrase, “Kilroy was here!”  is credited. It is assumed the phrase began was first created in early WWII years. The phrase spread across the world in endless places in carvings, drawings, and paintings, appearing on advertisements, toilet walls, weapons, airplane, and on and on! It became the “in” graffiti. It even appeared on the WW II National War monument in the USA and also on the Berlin Wall.

The phrase became an assertion of comfort, pleasure, identity for untold millions of people: “Kilroy was here!” American soldiers in WW II loved it, and adopted it as a slogan for victory. It buoyed spirits!

The phrase was often accompanied by a trademark drawing of a bald-headed man with large nose peering over a wall or table. Although controversy of its origins, abound, none deny its popularity and consequence.

Most believe the phrase “Kilroy was here!” was coined by James J. Kilroy, an inspector in the Quincy, Massachusetts, shipyards. His job was to identity completed work (quality control) by riveters building ships. He found merely chalking a check mark was easily erased by workers, and so he used the phrase “Kilroy was here!” to let workers know he was inspecting their work. The phrase became a popular assertion of identity and presence, for writers, movies, and songs.

Back to Legacy

I wrote the following poem to help me understand personal legacies, recalling moments, I carved, chiseled, spoke words, to establish presence, assert self, share emotion, hoping for: “Immortality!”  “Immortality” as memory beyond time and place.


“Babe was here 1952!”

              Carved in schoolyard tree!

Babe loves Patsy!

      Carved on school desk!

Go BW Yellow Jackets!

      Painted on street!

Joy Anne!

             Brain Tattoo!



 Find a tree!


Find a rock!


Find a book!


Find a dollar!


Find an Apple!


Find a mind!


Find a heart!


Find empty space!

            Fill it!

Go back to the tree!





“Kilroy was here!”


My poem, “Legacies,” was written in a magical hour, capturing insights about my life’s legacies, and implications as I age.  Legacy is a portal to “immortality.” The phrase, “Kilroy was here!” remains a legacy transcending time, finding its way into countless creations and communications.  It is a good legacy and has brought much joy and pleasure with its use.

I once had a close high school friend named Thomas J. Kilroy. We were good friends, but lost contact after high school. His father, John T. Kilroy, was a tough Irish cop in Cleveland, Ohio; his mother, Thelma, was a strong person, who brooked no disagreement with her orders.

I wonder where my friend may be today?  We parted after 1958 high school graduation. I enjoyed our friendship, even if his family name is Irish, and mine Italian. I do wish, sometimes, “Marsella was here,” would achieve some presence and circulation. Maybe it doesn’t matter! Legacy matters!


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Apr 2019.

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