on ‘changing the world’

I say this with every ounce of pretense it warrants: I was voted ‘most likely to change the world’ when I graduated from high school. It was fun; it stroked my ego and made me feel like I had some kind of knack… that I was destined to go on and do some world-changing. I was thinking quite a lot about this today, and have concluded that, putting aside for a moment the debate about the existence of destiny, we are all meant to (in that we simply do) change the world. Or, none of us ever have or ever will. I’m not much of a believer in platonicity, and I despise the way I’m innately drawn to categorization (please, everyone is), however I think when looking at it logically and denotatively, the debate over what it means to change the world can have one of two outcomes.

Today I pre-ordered a book online (taking a moment here to push away the thoughts about the fiction that is money) and paid for it, thereby placing money into the hands of another (likely a few entities) and having at least a minute effect on someone else’s life. I chatted with a cashier about the weather. I read a story online and contributed to the number of views the page had received. If changing the world means having a small effect on the outcome and life of another, then don’t we all change the world?

But then again, what do we mean when we say ‘the world’? When people talk about ‘changing the world’ they’re frequently referring to a neoliberalistic mission abroad, or a job in the social sciences that’s goal is to make the lives of others better. If this is the case, if ‘changing the world’ can be done with work in a non-profit, wherein the piece of the world being changed is likely not the whole of it (how are we considering time here by the way?), then don’t we all do it just about every day? And we shan’t limit ourselves to those with apparently good intentions, what about the perpetrators of genocide? They, too, are changing the world, however their change is measured in the things that happened, followed by the things that never could, the birth of a child, the lives and ambitions of those they’ve killed, the change that could have come of those lost.

Now, to the point of time: if the world is something much larger than just the pieces we attempt to change, wouldn’t it include the past and the present and the future and the worlds that existed then as well? It is only if the world is what exists in a single second that it is probably even able to be changed, right? I feel as though unless the end of humankind and all that we know happens at the hands of a single person, that if ‘the world’ is as broad as the world itself, nobody has or ever will truly ‘change the world’.

Because of the way I at least try to see things, I can’t decide not to recognize that there may well be something in the middle, or that our connotative understanding of the phrase ‘change the world’ means something altogether different than my nit-picky analysis offers. It refers to people who are written about in history books, probably, or people who may not be static figures in the eyes of those on earth and those to come, but that have done something grand enough to earn them recognition, to award them the honor of having ‘changed the world’. Do we want to define our aspirations by how much recognition or binarily-classified good we’ve done through them? Are our footprints only meaningful when they are seen by others? As far as I’m concerned, we need not worry ourselves with a term so stale.