What's the purpose of life? Judging by what many people do, it's to be remembered—or more specifically, to have one's name be recorded in as many places as possible, associated with big and/or enduring things. Hence, Nobel prizes, Hughes foundations, Smithsonian institutions, Getty museums, etc.—"memorials" of various sorts.
In better cases, the name to be remembered gets linked to something of long-term value such as learning. Other times, it's a label on something ephemeral, deservedly forgotten. But either way, it's just a name, a string of characters. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet..." Yet people, fearing oblivion, struggle to keep their character string "alive", whether or not any real connection remains to their personal life's story.
Wouldn't it be better to have one's name forgotten, and instead leave the world a better place as a result of what one did? George Eliot wrote, at the end of Middlemarch:
But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Friday, May 21, 1999 at 22:09:11 (EDT) = Datetag19990521