Monday, June 11, 2007

Changing the world and other fallacies

For a long time, even when I had the opportunity to make art, I didn't.

I needed to do something that would change the world. Make it a better place. Should I be a schoolteacher? A therapist? What would heal the violence, mitigate the suffering, and root out the injustice I saw around me?

I originally chose writing (surprise) as my tool for changing the world. I thought stories were the best way to go, especially because I had been so influenced by them (still am). I don't think I'd be an environmentalist today if it weren't for Alan Moore's run on DC Comics' Saga of the Swamp Thing. And let's not talk about Joseph Campbell's work on mythology, or other great teachers I've had in my life. This blog doesn't have the space for what I owe them and what they taught me about the importance of stories and the importance of being who I am.

And yet, it's taken me a long time to accept who I am, what I do, and how I participate in the world.

That's what gives me this insight: you can't change the world.

Why? Because when we think about changing the world, what we're really thinking about is changing people: how they think and behave in the world. You ever try to stay on a diet? Break a habit? Yeah. It's hard.

So it makes me understand better what Gandhi meant when he said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Who else can change us but ourselves? Who else can choose to learn but ourselves?

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a battle cry for narcissism and navel-gazing. It's also not an incitement to shame and guilt. There's a lot of terrible things happening in the world--have always been happening--and I'm angry about it. If you find any peace in my work--in my stories, writing, and art--it's peace that I struggle for.

And it's how I participate in the world. It's my contribution, and it's my offering. Love it or ignore it, because I'm done thinking I can shove it (with all the best intentions) down anyone's throat. The world doesn't change. We do.

From a roadside attraction on the highway of evolution,

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