How To Change The World
As stupid as it sounds
Progress is unstoppable. I’m not going to argue if we should strive for less, or if the society we’re building goes too fast for our own good. Because even if that’s so, we won’t be able to stop or even slow down progress. Because humanity’s advancements and growth are just a manifestation of one of the underlying principles of reality: change.
Just as the laws of physics, change is a constant of our universe, it is the very thing that makes time possible. Change is what makes the future become past, while producing the illusion we know as present. So no, we won’t ever stop humanity from constantly turning itself into something different. Luckily, we don’t have to.
What we really need is not to stop progress, but focusing it. Focusing it on the things we deem valuable. If you want to fly you don’t try to cancel gravity, you accept it and build machines that can fly taking it into account. If you think our society is heading in the wrong direction, you don’t stop its development, you try to steer it into what you think is best.
I’m obviously not content with how things are, or writing this would never have even crossed my mind. I think we consume too much, think too little, and are generally imbalanced as a society. We buy things that [poorly] hide our feelings of self-dissatisfaction. We work on alienating jobs for hours on end. We seek instant pleasures that only make us unhappier in the long (and not so long) term.
But it is okay not being okay. Just like we shouldn’t judge ourselves when we feel down, because it will only lead to feeling worst; we shouldn’t judge the world when it’s in a bad state, because it will only make it worst.
So, what should we do if not complaining and being miserable? Well, first of all, we must accept it. Bad things are not so bad once you accept them as they are and take responsibility. Acceptance may feel extremely saddening at first, but once it’s done, it leaves room only for positive change. Once you’ve accepted the world is not as you’d like, you can start taking steps to change it.
If, on the contrary, you don’t accept it, you’ll be constantly shocked by the harshness of it, which will ultimately drag you down into a place of resentment, anger, and fear.
Once acceptance is done, change comes naturally, we humans instinctually strive to change that we consider bad, that’s how we made all the great things we have. Science strives for a better understanding of the inner workings of the universe, art strives for the appreciation of beauty, philosophy strives to make us wiser and live better lives. We are all made to strive for something better, it’s ingrained in our brains. But we can only do such a thing once we’ve accepted the current state of affairs.
How could you run if you had no ground to stand on?
However, there’s another important question still to tackle. Even if you accept things, what’s the point of trying to change them? Anyway, it will be nearly impossible for a single person to make any relevant impact.
Well, that’s a tricky argument, because it is true and false at the same time. It all comes down to the meaning of ‘relevant’, or ‘important’. As humans, we tend to think our understanding of the world is absolute. We assign values and measure things in precise ways, we use words like big and small, strong and weak, valuable and worthless. The problem is not that we use those words, but that we think they’re fundamentally true, even though reality doesn’t work that way.
One single atom could make the difference between a star that explodes in a supernova and one that doesn’t. Yet we still think we are more important than that atom, even when such an explosion could instantly wipe us out of the universe to only leave behind, well, other atoms.
Nothing you’ll ever make has any significance at all, it will just be a drop in an infinite ocean, even if you make the most important scientific discovery of all times, you can only do so because you have food on your table that a farmer grew. He could only grow it because the earth was fertile due to some arbitrary biological and geological processes. These could only happen because of the initial conditions on which the earth was formed.
Also, looking into the future, that discovery could be destroyed by war, stepped on by another scientist who gets it first, forgotten in a few years because of a mistake on the previous knowledge you based it on, or even burnt by a fire that destroys all your work before you get to publish it.
So whatever you do is as important as the sun, and as unimportant as a pebble. If everything that happens is dependent on everything else, to the smallest of things, how could anyone assign a bigger value to some things than to others?
It is just an absurd idea that emanates from our egos, to think that we can achieve greatness, when greatness doesn’t even exist.
That is not to say you should become a passive actor of this world, it’s quite the contrary, actually. Knowing that what you do is as equally valuable as everything else is an invigorating thought. It is the sheer proof that your actions have power, because everything does. The same power as an atom, the same power as the sun. Not only that, but it also opens the door to seeing beauty and strength in other people, no matter how small or insignificant they may look through society’s lenses.
Everyone and everything plays a role in the course of the universe, it’s up to you to decide what role you want to play.