Ideas are powerful! They can outlive the people, and even the places and things originally associated with them. Rome was all but destroyed in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. The people that created Rome, and the representative republic which governed Rome for the first five centuries were long gone. Yet, these ideas made a resurgence in the 18th Century, when the founders of a new country called the United States of America created a representative republic in a new land far away. The writings of ancient Roman authors, from those that formed the Republic after overthrowing a King of their own, to those that later tried to defend the Republican form of government from power hungry politicians, are said to have provided inspiration for the country’s founders.
For all intensive purposes, Rome was a place that no longer existed. Yet, ideas that originated from this place had found their way to a land that Romans had no idea even existed, at a time over two thousand years later! Over the next Century, these ideas would proliferate, inspiring additional revolutions all over the world, and even counter-revolutions. Roughly a century later, that idea would actually find its way back to the very place it originated, when Rome, now part of a nation called Italy, would adapt a roughly similar form of Government.
It is for this reason people are often more threatened by ideas than they are by specific people. Today, when those of us look at someone like Osama Bin Laden, or any specific leader of ISIS, what we are looking at, and what we are threatened by goes way beyond a specific individual. Even Bin Laden, long the subject of ire for many, needed the aid or cooperation of many other individuals to successfully carry out the attacks he carried out. Simply put, for many of us in the United States, he became the face of an idea, and one that we largely found repulsive.
We all have ideas. Even those of us that do not consider ourselves creative, or inventive people, have ideas. It doesn’t have to be world changing like the invention of the computer. Maybe it is something as simple as the idea that it would be nice to have a train line or an additional road built to alleviate traffic. Or maybe it is the idea that animals should not be mistreated by their owners. Either way, as long as one understands the idea, why they feel the way they do about it, and has enthusiasm for it, the idea is worth pursuing and standing up for.
I have a ton of ideas, and many do relate to how I feel the world should work. Lately I have been hearing all the time that some people see the world as it, while others see the world as it could be. I would consider myself firmly in the later group. I commonly see some aspects of our society, and how it works, and think to myself (and sometimes say it to people around me) “we can do better”. After discussion, I will often hear from others what has come to be my least favorite sentence of all time: “It is what it is”. This is because, in many cases, I really see no reason it has to be that way. Some people see this as the mark of someone who refuses to mature beyond a state of artificially prolonged adolescence. However, I see it as refusing to give up on me, and what makes me unique.
I see an entire generation of people pursuing college education, and, more and more, post-graduate degrees, in interesting intellectually stimulating subjects just to join the workforce and be asked to perform menial, repetitive job duties and have their ideas rejected due to their low standing on the corporate totem poll. We can do better to nurture and develop these promising young minds.
I see people not being true to themselves, in their actions, their behaviors, and attitudes. We encourage one another to conform, to act like everyone else, and to live life according to a script written by and for a culture that no longer exists because many fear change and the potential loss of status associated with it. But each person’s individual and unique way of doing things is part of what makes this world an interesting place. We can be better about encouraging people to be true to themselves, and not being threatened by their unique way of life.
I see countless missed opportunities in the lives of countless people based on adherence to rigid rules and policies that do not make sense. This is where fear takes it’s greatest toll on society. Many take comfort in rules and structure. However, why should someone who has completed their work, and has no other obligations (meetings and such) be sitting in their cubicle at 2:30 on a warm, sunny afternoon? And, why should one person making a mistake with something lead to a law or ordinance preventing everyone from taking part in this activity? We can stop taking comfort in rules, and start taking advantage of all the beautiful opportunities this world provides us.
And, I see people who have failed to make deep and meaningful connections with other human beings. Many go through their lives feeling like they do not have the support system needed to get through the rough patches of their lives. This is because we live in a society that does not place a high value on building social capital. Many of us spend our days in work and social settings where we do not feel comfortable expressing our emotions and showing one another who we really are. You cannot develop a meaningful friendship with someone that does not even know who you really are. As is the case with the other ideas listed, we can do better on this one as well.
Periodically, I am pressured to give up on these ideas. I admit nobody has ever specifically told me something like “don’t be who you are”. But, I definitely feel it. “You need to act more professionally”. “Fireball: What are you? Still 22.” “Grow up, be a man.” “You can’t just….” These types of statements, and many more, come based on the idea that there are certain expectations of me that I do not believe need to exist.
There are even some that have given me sincere advice that I need to stop worrying about these overly philosophical issues. After all, there are actual reasons for all of the things that frustrate me, and those that defend the current way we do things in this world probably have some valid points. But, while sometimes I do experience frustration and rejection by acting the way I do, the alternative sounds way more depressing to me in the long run. The alternative, to me, is giving up on who I am.
I would rather encourage people to pursue their intellectual ideas, even if occasionally their bosses come down on me.
I would rather continue to show people who I really am, and continue to enjoy the activities that bring me happiness, even if I am periodically given negative feedback by judgmental people.
I would rather take advantage of all of the great things this world has to offer, all of the wonderful places to visit, interesting ideas to pursue, and experiences to enjoy, even if that periodically earns me “reprimand”.
And, I would rather occasionally get burned by someone who uses information about me for their own selfish ambitions than cease showing people who I truly am.
Essentially, I would rather get rejected as myself than be accepted by pretending to be somebody else.
We are all people of value, in our own unique way. And, for any one of us, if we go out there in this world, and find a way to be the best version of ourselves, but still ourselves, we will naturally find people who like it, and people who see us as valuable individuals. We all long for acceptance, but in order to be accepted in a true meaningful way, we need to overcome the fear of rejection, and stand up for our ideas.