Changing the world has become a cliché.
“This generation will change the world.”
“You have the power to change the world.”
“That [insert role of another person] you [insert action you perform] may just change the world someday.”
Maybe they can. Maybe you will. And yes, it is possible.
And no, you probably won’t. The world is mighty stingy with who it allows to change everybody on it. It just doesn’t give up control that easily. And when it does, you’re likely to wind up dead in the process. Or hated by a lot of people. Turns out many people don’t really want to be changed. Imagine that.
I’m really concerned for a lot of people – maybe you – who have been told all their lives how awesome they are, and they have been led to believe that all they need to do is show up in their awesomeness, and universal forces begin to converge to produce galactic change.
Guess what? It probably ain’t gonna happen. And in other news, my son, who works at Sears, just told me that the Kardashian Kollection just was moved to the clearance aisle. Ouch.
Unless you’re one of the less-than-one-percent who has the gifts, platform, or patience to be a revolutionary, the world is not your oyster. So what do you do if you are one of the 99%? Well, I suppose you could band together with a bunch of other frustrated people and make a scene. Demand that the world changes to suit your preferences, or at least hand over some of that money. That’ll change something, for sure – most likely your mailing address.
But who said “changing the world” is the only measure of success? When did the only two choices become “world changer” and “nobody?” Maybe what the world needs is not somebody who can revolutionize it, but somebody who can train up and nurture its kids. Maybe what the world need is not somebody who can sell a new idea (much as I love ideas), but somebody who can execute the old ones brilliantly. Maybe what the world needs is not somebody who can innovate, but somebody who can stabilize. Maybe what the world needs is not somebody with a face and body for television, but somebody with a heart and soul for quietly adding value by sitting down to dinner a few times a week with the whole family.
Boring, I know. Decidedly nonglamorous. But dripping with character.
I hope you’re young enough (I’m 53 and I think I am) to learn from the unknown monk, who wrote somewhere around A.D. 1100:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town, and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
Yeah, I know. I’ve quit preaching and gone to meddling. But what if changing the world really did start with changing yourself? What if that brick wall you keep running into isn’t really the rich and powerful or heterosexuals or men or women or the entertainment “industry” or the Bowel Championship Series or the Democrats or the Republicans or the Federal court system or white people or illegal aliens or drug cartels or Disney or Walmart or the Yankees?
What if the brick wall is insane belief that everybody and everything but you needs to change?
What if the brick wall is the smug complacency that somehow leads you to believe that you’re entitled to happiness as you define it – just because you’re, well, you?
Grow up. Please. We need you to show us the way. There’s still time.