Thursday, July 19, 2007

Saving the World

Where did I get this sense of... obligation?

I have a confession to make: I have a superhero complex. I have an overwhelming, burning need to Save The World. It's silly, self-important, and impossible, and I still have it. There are times when I cannot sleep at night because I simply can't see how I am going to achieve, in my limited lifetime, something that will truly Change The World For The Better.

As for the idea of simply relaxing and following my bliss, doing my own part by being happy and productive, well, that's a paradox, you see. There are times when I would like nothing better than to bail out on my faltering career track toward a mediocre future in the sciences. Sometimes I think that I could be very happy being a schlock sci-fi writer, or designing role-playing games, or running my own brewery, or spending my days in the mountains as a national park ranger. But those don't Make A Difference, you see? They're too small for that ridiculous Napoleonic part of me that wants to singlehandedly improve the human condition forevermore. And so I know that if I dropped it all now and went to a community college for a degree in Fermentation Science to spend my days making and bottling Huntington's, the finest goddamned craft ales on the West Coast, I'd be nagged all my days by a guilty voice inside that told me I was shirking. Beer? What kind of occupation is that for a Hero?

How dare I deprive the human race of my genius, my greatness?

And simultaneously I know that I'm just one man, and not, come to that, a Newton or a Franklin or a Darwin. I have the superego of a Great Man, and rather less ambition than Ben & Jerry, who, it is worth noting, originally intended to make bagels and only settled on ice cream because the initial outlay was cheaper and simpler. It seems rather conceited to determinedly martyr myself in a life path at which I stand every chance of failing utterly because I have to Save The World.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'd love to succeed in the sciences. I'd love to go back to school and, one day, discover something, some unexplored realm, that really sets me aflame with passionate interest. I'd love to be the guy who maps out the metabolic processes of the first extraterrestrial life we find, or the guy who writes the book or the script that finally makes evolution accessible to Americans, or the guy who unlocks a pattern in human DNA that allows us to double our effective lifespans or magnify our intellects with simple, safe modifications. The chances of that are... slim, it's true, but they're a lot worse than slim if I don't try.

We'd all love to be heroes, I know. I just wish I knew how to stop feeling like my only choices are "Champion Of Mankind" or "ignominious failure." I'd like to add "happy, successful ordinary guy" to the list.

I wonder if I'll be able to die contented once I get my Nobel Pri-- dammit!

1 comment:

skyen said...

I'm going to change the world. It always seemed a matter of course for me. By designing good videogames, I am going to change the world. I'll revolutionize the market, garner worldwide attention, and be solely responsible for taking the industry from an entertainment medium to an art form. At least, that's what I hope to do. In the end I'll be happy designing videogames for the rest of my life, looking to make that big hit.

What difference does that make, you ask? How does that truly change the world? I personally know how lifesaving a good game can be—as only a geek can. It's just something I've always been eternally grateful for. Hell, videogames changed my life. Why not others?