How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

I am a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Wright believed architecture should be an organic union of the site, the purpose and the structure. He had a firm vision for his life’s work and he is remembered for adhering to his belief that form, function and materials should be well-integrated and complementary.

black and white image of Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd Wright believed architecture should be an organic union of the site, the purpose and the structure. Our lives can be an organic union of our values and priorities and the roles we fill in our community, profession and family.

One of his most well-known homes is Fallingwater, in southwestern Pennsylvania. The house is perfectly integrated into its surroundings. While elegant in its setting, it is well-suited for its purpose as a summer home. Each element of the home, including the furniture Wright designed (never taller than the bottom of the windows so as to not block the view) is intentional and related to all the other elements.

I think his view of this organic union can be applied as a philosophy for living a well-integrated life, a life for which we want to be remembered.

We live an organic life when we integrate ourselves into the physical community in which we live and the professional community in which we work, and when we relate our priorities and values to our actions and our words as we fulfill our multiple purposes as a parent, spouse, provider and family member.

Frank Lloyd Wright also believed that a structure should not mis-represent itself in its purpose. A bank should not look like a Greek temple, for instance. We adhere to this same principle when we take care to not mis-represent ourselves by claiming accomplishments that are not ours or inflating our accomplishments to give others a false impression.

Wright also held that materials should not be used in ways contrary to their properties – such as twisting steel to look like a flower. Likewise, we adhere to this principle when we honor our bodies by taking good care of ourselves, and also when we honor our relationships by not manipulating or controlling friends or family to conform to our will as a condition of our continued relationship.

While Wright was a great architect, it is equally important to recognize his short-comings, least we think our heroes are perfect and therefore we must be perfect to be considered worthy of remembrance.

Wright’s colorful personal life often made headlines. He was married three times, and carried on a long love affair. A worker at his studio, Taliesin, set it on fire and murdered several people. His projects were notoriously over budget and many of his structures have not withstood the test of time because he frequently used unskilled workmen. Early in his career, he designed several homes on his own directly for homeowners, in violation of his agreement with his employer.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be known as someone who shows my awareness for others’ feelings and needs, and who shows I care for them through my words and my actions. I want to be known as someone who can help others express their feelings and their needs, especially in times of crisis and heartbreak. I want to be known as someone who helps others respond to the feelings and needs of their family and friends.

To be remembered, we do not have to change the world, dot the countryside with architectural marvels or build a financial empire. We do not have to be flawless. It is enough for us to be who we are. It is our actions and our words that make up who we are and will determine how we will be remembered. It is enough if we are remembered for consistently living our values through our actions and words. It is enough for us to be remembered for reliably and consistently doing the ordinary, everyday kinds of things that we can all do that show we uphold our values.

Life Is Honest, Open and True:  What about you? Are you living the life for which you want to be remembered? What do you need to do differently so that you can confidently say you are living the way you want to be remembered?

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Special Note to Readers:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania has been nominated to become the eighth wonder of the world. With terraces soaring out over a rushing waterfall, and a design intentionally conceived to draw you outdoors, there is nothing quite like this breath-taking home. You can cast your vote here:

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