This is such a dangerous question because it's laced with both possibility and cynicism.
It really comes down to the tone and inflection of one's voice when asking the question ... in question. It's also about which word in the sentence you stress.
"CAN we change the world?"
This questions whether it's even possible to change the world.
"Can WE change the world?"
This questions whether people can be rallied and actually work together for a common cause ... in this case, changing the world.
"Can we CHANGE the world?"
This questions whether or not CHANGE is too extravagant a word to use. It may be too idealistic amid this world of unforgiving disappointments, setbacks and horrors.
"Can we change the WORLD?"
This questions whether the world itself is too BIG to be influenced or changed.
Not only is this a dangerous question, but it's a big pain. People don't like change. They like positive change, but only if it just "happens" to them … like magic. Few people willingly leap from their chairs exclaiming ...
"I'm going to promote and initiate positive change today!" "Roll up your sleeves everyone! Here's what we're gonna DO!"
If they do, someone in the mix will surely give them the smack down while uttering ...
"Oh please! SHUT UP! Have a seat please."
It's very difficult to support idealism when you've seen and experienced shady activity around every single bend. I know I have. I've often felt that with every step I take in the direction that I want to go in life, somehow there's this huge, unseen force that hurls something at me. It's like clockwork and it's extremely unsettling, frustrating, infuriating and inconvenient, to say the least.
I'm a great planner. I usually have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C and guess what? I'm usually thrown a curve ball from out of nowhere and my best laid plans get shot to crap. These days, I just TRY to catch the curve ball and run with it because I know it's coming. Like clockwork.
And yet, somehow, I continue to cling to idealism ... to some extent. Something tells me to keep believing despite powerful evidence to the contrary. This is where faith comes in. I mean, it's easy to believe things you see and can empirically verify. That's a no-brainer. Yet to believe in divine providence? That's all about faith.
I'm actually writing this because an artist told me they felt my essay, "How to Fix the Art World: A Survey" was perhaps a bit too idealistic. Let me think about this for a moment...
... You know, I think the artist is correct. Let's face it. It was idealism that inspired me to write that piece and reach out to my art world contacts in the first place. It's idealism that inspires me to interview artists and write about art.
It's idealism that's driving my fingers to type these very words that you're reading right now. It's idealism that got me out of bed this morning to go to the polls and vote early. It was idealism that connected me to the artist who was criticizing my idealism.
Without idealism, would we do anything?
It's idealism that causes me to write and put my writing out there into what often seems like a black hole where if I shouted, I might not even hear the echo of my own voice. It's THAT black, THAT deep and sometimes THAT lonely. Is anyone going to read this? As an essayist, am I really just talking to myself? Am I steps away from the loony bin?
And yet, idealism and questions like, "Can we change the world," continue to drive me ... as well as creative people who create.
So ... Can we change the world? CAN WE? You know, I'm not so sure that we can change THE world. Though the world seems to be shrinking and becoming much more inner-connected, it's still a BIG, complicated place. So much can and will go wrong.
To be honest, I gave up on changing THE world a long time ago. What I focus on now is changing MYSELF. Can I change MYSELF? You bet I can. So can YOU. You CAN change yourself.
I'm tempted to start singing Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror," but I won't. However, he was on to something. Self discipline is the trick. Trying to change THE world is no substitute for mastering yourself and YOUR world.
When we ask, "Can We Change The World?" perhaps we should focus on eating better, losing that fifteen pounds, mowing that overgrown, front lawn, studying for that exam, telling your father you forgive him and so on.
It's so easy to look outside of ourselves and see fault, but going inward? That's the real trick. No? In fact, I think many of us focus on "the world" specifically because we don't want to look inward. Looking inward is tough because we have to face ourselves.
When we look at "changing the world," we can always convince ourselves that we're cleaning up someone else's mess. Whatever is wrong "out there" is never our personal fault, so this gives us a great opportunity to cast ourselves as heroes in the film of our lives. Pure vanity.
"Look at what THEY did," we say out loud. "I fixed that!"
But changing yourself is actually tougher because we often don't want to look at our TRUE selves. It's too difficult or too frightening. Looking inward and changing yourself means that YOU are 100 percent responsible.
It doesn't matter what happened to you when you were a child. Now that you're a functioning, rational adult, it's totally up to you to take full responsibility for everything that has happened in your life. Taking responsibility doesn't mean you're to blame. It simply means you're empowering yourself by taking ownership.
Let me guess. You're having trouble with this? That means I've proven my point. Believe me you. It takes a long time to get to this place. It's called maturity. And yet, despite having learned this lesson, there's still so much more growing to do. I don't know about you, but I've got a LONG way to go.
It's okay to cry and be angry about what went down in the past, but at some point, you've got to step up and show up ... FOR YOURSELF.
You've got to take a long, hard, and often uncomfortable, if not painful look in that mirror. You've got to let it go ... you've got to heal ... and you've got to move the hell on. No one can do this for you.
Can we change the world? Hmm. Are you sure that's the right question?