If what we deserve is based on what we contribute then most of us live far better than we deserve.
We live more safely and securely without ever having fought a battle or pioneered to make it all possible. Life is pretty good everywhere. Sure, there is strife and poverty and political oppression in so many places. But fewer places and less strife every year, every decade – and again, with most of us not doing much of anything to make it happen.
The world is inexorably moving toward being a better place but we also have so many people, organizations and politicos (aided and abetted by voracious media and self-serving opportunists) planting fear and fueling fires of conflict to serve their interests and to scare us.
Life for me, life on earth for all of us, has never been better – ever.
And it will be better tomorrow, next year and next decade.
Deaths of too many friends in recent years cause me to read more carefully the ages of people in obituary pages – too many reminders that finality of life is something guys my age ought to think about because my time here might not be as far away a destination as I would like to think …
If any of us vanished from earth tomorrow there will be no statues in parks, plaques on buildings or bookstore sections devoted to us. 99.9% of us have not accomplished anything on a scale deserving grand-scale fame or accolades. Not to say we don’t deserve appropriate recognition for valued things we’ve done, it’s just that most of us don’t influence much of anything beyond our local orbit and few people doing things worthy of a local headline or by-line.
Still, we all get up and give our best every day.
OK, not everyone and not 100% every day, but most of us do, don’t we?
My point is that, while I’ve written frequently on this subject before I am riveted now. The worth and value of everything we’ve done, of everything I’ve done, might be over soon and of little lasting consequence. My accomplishments are important to me, but not likely of much interest to anyone else. I wonder if great philosophers and innovators felt that way? My guess is that few of them ever did. My guess is that Aesop, Aristotle, Edison, Jobs, Nightingale and Currie had one thing in common – they had their something too, something they found both fascinating and valuable and they just did it. Gates, Musk and Zuckerberg too. Make your own list of actors and artists, tycoons and philanthropists, scientists and athletes – they found something that gripped them and they were really committed to it. They worked to do better, to get better and sometimes fate intervened to help as well, but my guess is none of them starting out expecting to change the world and how society functions, but they did.
Arthur Fry, inventor of the Post-it Note just wanted to keep things sorted in his choir books. Galileo’s gravity experiment changed how everyone sees the world even though his results were suppressed by a long prison term. Sir John Harington, created the flush toilet.
I could make a list of thousands with a few days of research – obscure people doing magnificent things, important people doing stupid things, everyday people having something odd happen in their lives and pausing to say, “that’s interesting ….” and we get the X-ray or Velcro or reality TV or something equally unpredictable.
Is there some commonality in all of this? I think there is. Few of us change the world in a lasting meaningful way, but if we checked all the people who ever did, my expectation is that 99.9% of them were trying really hard to do something really well. More important, I doubt very many were doing it to change the world or to get absurdly rich – they were doing it because they thought it was a really interesting idea to try, theory to prove or cool thing to figure out …
I read somewhere I’ve forgotten – about the notion that in the future, when our sun sets for the last time and the highest form of life waving good-bye, that it might not be humans as we now know them doing the waving because some other species will eclipse or replace us. Until then however, it is up to us. To all of us. If we wait around for someone else, the next generation or another species to fix the world, to make the world better – it just won’t get done. We all need to pick up a shovel or a pen, set to work on a problem or a cause …
Experience teaches us real change and fads are often mistaken for one another and plenty of mistakes get made. While we should expect this old earth to keep turning without difficulty or variation for another few billion years – we also know it will be safer, kinder, gentler and more worthy of all of us if we each make a little positive contribution (or a little less negativity) while we are here.