The philosopher of Buddhism, Jay Garfield, gave a great interview to The New York Times’ philosophy blog, The Stone.
Treat the past reflectively and with gratitude and responsibility, and with an awareness that much of our present life is conditioned by our collective past; take the future seriously as something we have the responsibility to construct, just as much as if we would be there personally.
The quote above is given as one way a Buddhist who does not literally believe in rebirth might interpret it as a metaphor. This could be especially appropriate depending on how you understand the notion of no-self. If we were better able to transcend our egocentric viewpoints, we’d spend more time considering our legacy to future generations. There’d also be the eerie kick of imagining our art and ideas rediscovered when we’re gone – salvaged from the deep forest and seen finally in all their strangeness. Maybe even passed on.