My Legacy on a Paper Napkin

My Legacy on a Paper Napkin

Lorís Simón Salum

Not long ago, a friend and I began discussing the idea of heritage over dinner. In the midst of sharing tofu spring rolls, we chewed on that which is inherited and that which is legacy, the palpable and the impalpable. I do not doubt for one instant you can argue how the substance of each of these takes you to a paradox depending on where your perspective begins. The tangible creates the intangible just as much as the elusive gives space for the concrete. In the midst of deciding whether I should use a fork or my hands for the next dish, I surrendered to a personal classification of my own experience: the visible and the invisible ties to those who are long gone.

Naturally, the first topic that met our table was money, likely the most sought out type of heirloom, the thing you inherit with a transformative quality. Usually that is where our minds go, a dirty fight for the rightful owner of whatever is left. It is nuanced. One person may have built something magnificent, so much so that it marks the destinies of the next few generations. Sometimes it is the kind of platform that sets you aside from the crowd and offers a brief experience into the fountain of life: freedom of choice. However, these forms of inheritances hardly make it past the third generation. They provide the illusion of a life that is rarely sustainable based on the unpredictability of personalities. Money can be marvelously materialized, tying you to greatness, almost in the religious sense. You belong to more than just a limited body. Here is something that was made from the lineage of your own flesh and blood; it has your smell and your likeness. Maybe not. Maybe it is all a pile of trash with labels of your name and a shocking void of emotion where a visceral connectedness should have been. At some level, the tie remains.

As I drove back home, I continued this conversation in solitude. I visualized the act of transmitting, the passing of the torch to the next carrier: the family tradition. I see this translating into the mosaic of temperaments, addictions, unlived potentials, concretized behaviors that respond to fear and so on. Politics seep in. Natural disasters splash all over. Historical social movements have their pull. We may spend every residual minute of life within us repelling this legacy, fighting it, outrunning it. Whole generations can be spent as a unique reaction to the past. We turn into waves of misery that have not finished rippling out. The loss of identity is not even perceivable in the cloud of debris that continues to blow. The momentum from the crash uproots anything that offers solidity. Maybe fate did not write about creativity in your cards, not for the ones in this era. Freedom will be left for the grandchildren, if there are any at all. They will be allowed to enter a world that is still. They will dig their feet in the sand to enjoy the wrinkles of the lingering surfs. The stories preceding them will never crack their reality. The unfortunate ones who made the mistake of being born during the time of hurricanes will solely survive as a memory in the strands of their descendant’s DNA. Then again, despite this be a story with many faces, it is not your own. Perhaps family is the one rock whose weight has greater force than the speed of any wind. In this case you hang on to it for dear life in the epidemic of loneliness, swearing you will never let go. Not for anything, not even a dream.

I laid down in bed, unable to settle my thoughts. I imagined another kind of heritage, an obscure one. This lineage is hardly ever witnessed by consciousness because it is too far deep under the surface. It is the map itself as to how to go about this existence and in what manner. It is not about direction or movement, but about complexion, substance, coding. Take a spider who transcends its neural limitations and accesses the feeling of inspiration. It could create the most unique designs within its webs; and yet, these would inevitably consist of the same fibers that make up their silk. A spider can only create spiderwebs. It may not be so simple for humans to choose the one thing we produce and its respective connotation. I think our going about life is a combination of genetic sensitivity to the external world alongside the capacity to metabolize what is being received. Add the variants of any given context. What is your nature and how do you nurture? This is given to you, taught to you. With or without words, it is inherited to you.

That night I dreamt of following a young woman to look for my stolen car. For those of us that know about dreams, we know the immediacy with which they have to be written down. In my purse was a paper napkin from the restaurant I left, enough for a temporary journal. It was the kind of dream that left me with a statement more so than an intention. I wrote about the imagery of what I carry. I wrote about the weight of what I have been given. I also drew a picture of where I was: a parking garage, a place of waiting. I wondered if this is what my time will be defined by in the grand scheme of the family lineage. Am I a pause? Am I a breath that needed to be caught? If it is so, I surrender again to the inescapability of my silk: I should be so lucky. In a mystical sense, this sort of endowment begins to take the shape of destiny. Is there such a thing? I do not know. This is a question that is merely passed onto the ones who will outlive you. In my case, it will be in the form of a paper napkin.


*Cover image by the author

LorisLorís Simón Salum is a psychotherapist in private practice in Houston, TX. She is the author of Ensoulment: Exploring the Feminine Principle in Western Culture (2016), as well as the film director of the multi award-winning documentary Ensoulment: A Diverse Analysis of the Feminine in Western Culture (2013). She was the Creative Director for Literal Magazine for over 10 years. Some of her projects included Literally Short Film Festival, Literal’s short international film festival, and Literally Everything, Literal’s podcast. You can find her at

Posted: June 25, 2024 at 10:16 pm

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