An Unknown Legacy

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about legacy. As in, the lasting effect you have on the world. The funny thing about building a legacy is that – much like any goal or ambition – it changes over time. My overall goal has always been to change the world in a  drastic, all-encompassing way. But the details and methods used to reach it are…muddled. Not many years ago, I would have taken the most direct route and opted for warfare. I grew up reading about the lives of guys like Alexander The Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and the impact they had on the development of human civilization. Let’s face it: A lot of humanity’s technological developments were the result of some kind of conflict. The borders and countries we have today aren’t the result of just treaties and negotiations; wars were fought and countless lives were lost in the process. You think 21st century protests are bad? Try reading up on the French Revolution; those people changed things the hard, bloody way. Game of Thrones has nothing on what went down in medieval times. The development of the computer and literally every electronic device you’re using right now? You can thank Alan Turing for laying the groundwork, and for his efforts during World War II. NASA and moon landing? We got there based on rocket technology from the aforementioned conflict, and as the result of a little thing called the Cold War.

So yeah, warfare is kind of important.

It took me years to realize that it wasn’t worth it, though. It’s too messy, complicated, and utterly devastating. I love strategy and the thrill of competition, but taking over a country – let alone the entire world – would be a huge moral and logistical nightmare. I used to justify it by saying that, while the actions and decisions taken were horrifying, at least the people who made them would be remembered. Incredibly shortsighted and selfish, I know. But if I’m going down in history, I’d rather it be for doing something huge and worthwhile without violence. I wish I could be one of those old-time explorers who ventured into the unmapped jungles and islands, or climbed mountains just because they were there. Someone like Edmund Hillary, for example. I’d like to discover some new species, map out the ocean floor, or perhaps develop a new kind of synthetic material. Maybe invent something important, like an engine that doesn’t run on fossil fuels, or a seismometer that provides more of a warning time. I’d want to retire in a nice, secluded house with a massive library, where students and weary travelers could come seeking stories and insight. I want to be remembered for doing something that could change everything, and doing so in a constructive, positive way.

If I can’t accomplish that, then I’d at least want to be cherished as a famous author. Wishful thinking, isn’t it?

Advertisements

Daily Prompt: Fear Factor, Or: Rejection VS Individuality

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about fear. Namely, what do you fear. Don’t be fooled by anyone who claims to be fearless. They’re either covering up insecurity, a computer, or an alien. Maybe all three. Everyone has a fear; it’s one of the defining aspects of your humanity. It’s a natural, instinctual response your body has to perceived threats. It’s just a matter of exactly what it is. For me, it’s nothing tangible. I don’t fear death, the dark, insects, etc. I mentioned recently that my fear is living a meaningless existence. Life is inherently meaningless; it’s up to each individual to find their own meaning. Putting that into practice is not only hard, but scary as well. What do you do when the whole world is out there, and you don’t have a dream? The scope of it is downright terrifying.

While this kind of fear works well for philosophical discussion, this particular prompt calls for something a little less…overarching. So, how about something a bit more intimate: Rejection. I’m not talking about the romantic kind; given the amount of barely-averted looks and flirts directed toward me, I wouldn’t have any problems…if I actually tried going with it. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a textbook introvert. I’m really shy and I try to avoid being in large groups of people. Not because I necessarily despise them, but because interactions are tiring, and I never know what to say. Hey, let’s see you bring up the psychologically manipulative set designs of The Shining or the recurring themes in Haruki Murakami’s novels the next time you’re chatting a party. By all means, go ahead. All I get those confused stares, a request to speak up, or a lingering sense that I never should have opened my mouth in the first place. I get through it with a (hopefully) charming smile and heavy doses of sarcasm. A lot of people find it endearing. Others ask me what planet I’m from. I scramble for the quietest corner, take out the book I smuggled along with me, and leave my horribly awkward real world behind.

But why?

It’s a lot easier to close yourself off from what you fear. Since I dread rejection so much, then why bother interacting with people at all? Oh wait, that’s right! Social interaction is the core tenet of human civilization. Can’t get around that one, can I? Well, technically I can, but it’d cost me my sanity. Pretty sure that’s something you want to hang on to. So since shutting everyone out isn’t feasible, that means dealing with the fear in question. How exactly am I supposed to do that? That’s not a rhetorical question; I really don’t know. It’s been a part of me for as far back as I can remember. A lot of my elders were – and still are – religiously conservative. Look, I’m not going to start a debate about this. I have no problem with religion; some folks need something to believe in. But when you use religion to oppress and slaughter people who don’t share your views? Yeah, humanity doesn’t exactly have a spotless record. Now, imagine trying to be the model son raised by conservative, often absent parents. Sound difficult? Try doing that with an independent streak as big and deep as mine. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not very fun. I was the kind of kid who’d always ask the difficult questions, the one who wanted everything explained in non-sugarcoated detail. The phrase “Because I said so!” was never good enough for me, and I refused to accept excuses. Many adults found it irritating, and it hasn’t won me many fans in my adult life. There are some at my church who still won’t even look at me.

Well shucks, I’m so sorry that I can’t just play along. That must be such an inconvenience.

I’m not trying to be rebellious. I’m really not. I just need to experience the world on my own terms. New ideas and concepts are fascinating, but not necessarily feasible for me. My concern isn’t so much about religious beliefs, laws, structure, etc. The only thing that matters is if it works. And a lot of what does work for me doesn’t do so for the people in my personal and professional life. I’d been rejected, bullied, and dismissed so many times growing up that I learned to expect it. Trying to conform to others’ expectations left me an emotional wreck. I’ve let myself become less restrictive, though. My contempt for gender roles is probably the most noticeable result. I’ve got enough long, curly hair to resemble a young Robert Plant or Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. I rock the androgynous look. A lot of women find it fascinating and ask me about it, but others just frown disapprovingly or assume I’m transgendered. I stopped caring years ago. If I’m in a suit, I’ll occasionally get asked if I moonlight in a heavy metal band. I’m one of the few people on either side of my family that actively reads and writes. People think I’m weird because I don’t spend my free time on Facebook, clinging to my phone, watching sports, or going bar-hopping. I don’t know anyone else my age that doesn’t drink. You try being the only sober person in at a party. Or how about hearing the phrase, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because it’s hard to trust people when you’re an outcast.

Just saying.

Gah, what a mess. I need to work on the self-confidence thing. How do I get over social phobia? There’s got to be a niche for me out there somewhere. If not, I’ll just have to carve out my own. That’s got to count for a little bit of courage, right?