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change the world

December 28, 2010

I’ve been working my way through Einstein, the biography written by Jürgen Neffe, and translated into English by Shelley Frisch. Last night I was reading about Galileo. This morning I dreamed I was one of a group of Renaissance astronomers including Tycho Brahe, who were discussing metaphysics and spacetime (although of course they didn’t call it that). After a lively discussion, the consensus developed that whatever circumstances we face, no matter how much they might seem to resemble circumstances we’ve faced before, are in some sense unique (because of spacetime). And acting within those circumstances does absolutely change the world. Not necessarily in highly dramatic fashion, but still the world is changed. We went on to agree that one has a moral obligation of sorts to thoughtfully act within our circumstances, co-creating a better world (even if we never seem to directly benefit).

A few months ago I read a book called The Secret History of Dreaming. The author, Robert Moss, talked about how some dreams could be accounts of visits to other places and times, rather than just more ordinary types of dreams. Since I read that book, I’ve had a handful of dreams that really felt like I was actually somewhere else, having real experiences that I’ve never had in waking life. This was one of those dreams.

All my life, I’ve yearned to Change the World, but as the song says, I haven’t known what to do. Lately I’ve been thinking about legacies: how small can they be while still making a difference to someone somewhere. For instance, as a thought experiment, I imagined my body as analogous to a galaxy, and each one of the trillions of cells in my body as analogous to a human being. What if one cell in my body innovated (through mutations or other means) a slightly better way of carrying out its functions? What if that innovation(s) spread throughout that first cell’s local community? Not any further, just a tiny group of cells doing things a little better. Wouldn’t I, as my body/galaxy still have gained a benefit, even though I don’t know anything specific about those cells and what they’re doing? I would say I have. That they are intelligent evolution in action, and the whole world benefits, even if no details are known except by the participants.

So changing the world doesn’t require anything flashy or a world-renowned. Instead, it seems to require only that we ACT. Wherever we are, we can make a difference.


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