How to change the world – big and small

Photo by Miriam Miles

These revelations got their start over a balmy night in a very old, enchanting place in the Malaysia. It was a perfect setting to consider other ways to view the world, and given a little time, and an inspiring setting to let your mind go, you never know what will bubble up. You might just discover the secrets of the universe — or at the very least, think about amphibians and aliens.

1. Everyone Should Be Given a Turtle

Turtles live in captivity anywhere between 20–60years, depending on the turtle type and care. This very well could mean that your turtle will outlive you. You know what this means, right? You will have to have an extended care plan for your turtle. In other words, what is the cost over its lifetime? Will your turtle need to be hibernated every year, or need other specific care at times? Who will inherit the turtle when you die? In this era of ephemerality, turtles represent commitment. They also force a person to undergo long-term thinking and planning. This is definitely something we all need to be better about. One could argue that children provide a much more complete lesson in this, but just think, by the age of 20 years old, children are often on their own. They don’t need you to feed them everyday — for another 40 years.

Sound like a big commitment? Uh, yes, it is. That’s the point. If everyone thought about their lives more in terms of planning and preparedness, looking forward sometimes, our views towards our own worlds might be altered for the better and perspectives changed.

Note: This is not the 10,000 Year Clock. This is just a really cool clock picture to make you think philosophical, timey thoughts.

2. The 10,000 Year Clock

The department store, Sears, of mail order catalogue fame, could’ve been the next Amazon. Yep, you heard me. In 1993, Sears had the most developed, market-leading mail order service in the world. They owned insurance company, AllState, investment firm Dean Witter, and real estate brokerage, Coldwell Banker. In a funny twist, they were also aligned to IBM and had an internal computer network. But wait, they also had their own major credit card, Discover. All their ducks were in a row. BUT — to cut costs that fateful year they dumped their mail order business, spun off All-State, and soon after, let go of Coldwell and Dean Witter. Two years later, in 1995, launched, staking claim to the new mail-order realm of the future. In one of the most fascinating examples of shortsightedness and short-term focus, our children probably won’t even remember Sears.

On the other hand, Jeff Bezos, of Amazonian long-sightedness, is helping to fund the The Long Now Foundation’s 10,000 Year Clock project, conceived by lead designer, Danny Hillis (his Ted Talks). The hope is this clock will literally run, mechanically, for 10,000 years inside a mountain in West Texas, making entirely unique chimes at different intervals. No one will even hear most of the sounds this clock creates. Why, you may ask, is someone undertaking something so expensive, with so little outward use?

The Long Now Foundation claims it is exactly so people ask that question, to prompt themselves to thing in terms of “generations and millennia,” and, “If a Clock can keep going for ten millennia, shouldn’t we make sure our civilization does as well?” As Jeff Bezos puts it, “As I see it, humans are now technologically advanced enough that we can create not only extraordinary wonders but also civilization-scale problems. We’re likely to need more long-term thinking.”

This gives us something to remind us of our own size and scale, but reminds to keep dreaming big and long-term. Just because something might outlast us by a lot a lot, doesn’t mean we don’t want future generations to benefit.

Photo by Me2 (Me Too)

3. We Need a Common Foe — or just, Save the Cheerleader, Save the World

Aliens, anyone? Just think, problems between countries, civil war, might not seem so insurmountable if Aliens are attacking the world. Perhaps it will ignite a new space race? A new gathering of humanity? Likely. If we are all about to be annihilated, suddenly our individual differences seem much smaller, and our problems become more conjoined. We fight to save the planet, our planet.

Now, possible annihilation of humanity — and lots of death and destruction — is probably not the best way to change our world. Nor, is it likely to happen in our lifetimes (we hope!). Something tangible that we can focus on: saving an individual. Maybe that person you were kind to goes on to cure every known disease. Maybe they become a great father who makes incredible cupcakes for the block parties, and is always there when you need a shoulder to cry on. If we all focused on doing one good thing for one person once a month, or better, a week, the world will be a better place. It can even be making time in your work schedule for that friend who just broke up with her boyfriend. It can be volunteering at a local school, hospital, or for once talking to that homeless person and offering to bring them to a shelter. The point, all be it a slightly cheesy one, is not new or novel. It’s to force yourself to do something small, or even once in a while, something big. All these small, medium, and big things will add up. We all need our own cheerleaders in our lives, so be someone else’s. If everyone tried to save their own, local world during their day-to-day, we might just get somewhere.

P.S. I would like to thank that lovely couple I met in that enchanting Malaysian gem for inspiring the turtle idea.
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