I’ve spent more time talking about fixing the world’s problems with my dad than I want to admit. The worst part of this somewhat morbid and masochist practice is that it happens way too late at night. Sharing insomnia with my dad helps the experience to be less lonely.
When our droopy eyes catch up to the fact that night is almost gone, we look at each other and shrug. “So it goes,” we capitulate.
Why does changing the world matter? What’s the point of all the effort that goes into every humanitarian organization, every water well dug, every orphanage built? Seriously, what’s the point, we know we’re only scratching the surface, right?
This quandary isn’t new to us. In the middle ages, there were groups of monks that were so preoccupied with the coming apocalypse that they lived miserable lives because “what’s the point of caring about the earthly anyway?”
As I write, a couple of conversations I had with some friends (read: millennials) about the issues we face today is fresh on my mind. I quickly jotted down some talking points and decided to expand more on my thoughts.
I had a climate change piece planned, but I wanted to post my conclusions before I raise any more problems.
Homework: tonight, after the 10 o’ clock news, recap them to yourself.
How many stories are positive? How many stories end with solutions? How many stories allow you to take action on the issue?
Indeed, the recap will be bleak more often than not.
So what’s the point?
Can you really save the world?
I’m going to shift gears just a tad, but I promise it allows us to coast to the conclusion here, so bear with me.
My dad used to mount me and my siblings on his shoulders. The world looked so different from up there.
My most vivid memory whilst on his shoulders was when he would walk into the ocean. Tsunamis, it seemed to me, pounded on the stalwarts that were his legs. The same surf might not be as impressive to me now, but my imagination allowed me to believe in his ability to keep me safe.
My brother also exploited my dad’s seemingly inexhaustible knowledge, bringing him all his and his classmates’ broken toys. There was nothing my dad couldn’t fix or overcome, in my mind.
Somewhere between then and now, though, I have stopped believing that certain problems are solvable.
Why? Where does this unhealthy cynicism take hold, and why are problems so big all of a sudden?
I want to propose we embrace imagination to our arsenal of values.
Can the world be saved?
No, but yes.
The truth: at our current rate, climate change will wreak havoc where all our other shortcomings like war and inability to curve hunger and illiteracy don’t. The 6,050 deaths by guns in the U.S. this year will go up.
Maybe we are too late to save a great many things. Basically, the world cannot be saved.
Allow me to make an assertion: it is the belief in impossible things (six by breakfast, said the White Queen) that make us inherently human.
Simply because what we see, observe and know to be true says it cannot be done does it mean we cannot try.
Denying our planet and its inhabitants—human (us) and otherwise—our best effort to a better existence is lazy and cruel.
Sure, the world seems to far gone to rescue. By not embracing our human ability to help and innovate new solutions to our problems we are betraying ourselves. I suppose the key is a good imagination, to see new solutions and see something worth my effort where others see a lost cause.
Let’s not go down a list of inventions and achievements here. Ask yourself how many of our achievements as humans would be there without imagination (or inspiration, if you prefer that term)?
Problem solving is in our very being. Diseases have been cured, frontiers reached, discoveries made—all through the power of curiosity.
Whether you believe that Mars or heaven or nirvana or a simple grave is our next stop, raising the standard of living of our neighbors and earthly co-inhabitants should be our priority during our time on this pale blue dot.
You don’t get a pass simply because you’re aiming for something other down the road. While you are here, sharing the air I breathe with me, I promise to do anything in my power to make your existence here worthwhile.
Taking action is easy. It’s our fear to attack an insurmountable challenge that keeps us in check.
We’ve already talked about ways we can implement positive, communal changes. I’m sure in your mind, using your imagination, you can come up with more things than I have the ability to (or room in this blog to write down).
“Is not much of the tyranny in the world,” argues E.F. Howard, “largely due to a lack of imagination?”
What if we only believed one more impossible thing, and decided to put others and the world we all share before ourselves?
I can imagine it would be a nicer place to live. But I can imagine a lot.
Maybe this should have been my first post.