What could I do, really? It's the idea I've wrestled with much of my life. It seems I'm constantly up against it. It started in high school with friends that refused to register to vote, when I'd have killed to register, though I was too young even my senior year. I volunteered my time, I spoke on behalf of my chosen candidate, and dammit I made a difference, but I was pissed that I couldn't vote. It turns out my vote wouldn't have been a game-changer in my ward, my district, my state, my country, but I'm pretty sure that my words and actions touched hearts and minds. It didn't change the election though.
Moving forward, my jaded, embittered self still didn't cause my candidate to win in 2004 either, even though I voted, I caused many to register, and even threatened bodily harm towards those too apathetic to vote on their own and caused them to turn out. Twice my motivation turned real local results, small though quantifiable, but failed to achieve my overreaching goal.
It's been years since then. I've grown intellectually and emotionally since then, but what have I learned? There have been plenty of other failures despite my best efforts and plenty of successes despite my apathy. It's enough to make one wonder about his own impact on the world. I joined Klout to measure my social media impact and was quite surprised with the result, then I realized people regurgitating pilfered racist/sexist/horrible jokes were making a bigger theoretical impact than me. That wasn't really a setback, but it was disheartening nonetheless. Looking at real people working their asses off to make a difference, they're not making an impact in numbers like Carlos Mencia Parody Account #4.
Then I remembered the metrics used by [Faceless Big Box Electronics Chain] I used to have to memorize when I was in management training in a former life. We measured all the metrics for our store - close rate, items per transaction, average selling price, and attachment percentage, not just for the whole store but for each individual salesperson. Some people did great, some not so great. In theory, people who did poorly in these metrics were phased out. Some didn't, though, because they consistently got glowing personal reviews from customers who obviously would come back. For years, [Big Box] didn't know what to do with these people they obviously couldn't fire. Fast forward several years, and the nameless company has now destroyed all its direct competitors. They've created high-paid, high-profile, highly competitive Personal Shopper positions where metrics are largely thrown out in favor of exit interviews.
Possibly a poor analogy, but it gives me heart in this real-world test run of baring myself to the world. In the last two years, I've gone from having a few fractured ideas to pulsating with a need to share my ambition. I've gone from non-work schedules consisting of sleeping, video games, and bad movies to purposefully signing myself up for ambitious projects I can't possibly conquer without first bettering myself. Two years ago my longest-term goal was to be rid of my run-down car (a noble goal, trust me, but short-sighted). Now, for better or worse, I'm pretty much booked through April and making plans for beyond. Much is work, but among that is AOK events, my talk, Reason Rally, and on one insane weekend in April - two lectures for work at our huge OKC user conference, Ask An Atheist Day with whatever group will have me (up in the air), and possibly emceeing a huge regional beard contest at a beer festival (assuming timing works out). I've also tentatively signed to a couple other events in 2012 and 2013.
Yeah, that's all great for me. I love being part of it and I'll surely reap benefits. After all, what worthwhile project doesn't come with reward? Well, I'm not being paid for any of it, and last time I checked it's going to cost me a fortune all told; and really, I'm doing it mostly for me, because I want to *feel* like I'm part of something bigger. See, a lot of religious folk get to feel that without accomplishing anything, but it costs them part of their rationality and causes unreasonable guilt. Me, I've got to do something with my time here in order to achieve impact beyond my mortality. The human need for the eternal is not limited to spiritualists, it's natural to want a legacy. Some just live vicariously through children, some hide from it, some seek solace in the immortality allegedly promised by Christ. For those of us who take no stock in forever, we are left with doing something real and tangible in our lives.
I didn't originally intend for this to be an admission of my self-serving nature. In fact, my larger goals are selfless and far-reaching - the end of second-class citizenship, true freedom of conscience, and the triumph of reason over fear. The problem is that we all suffer from that fear, and that fear is what's behind oppressive acts from petty to horrific. And in the end, there's no shortage of fear, but there's a great shortage of champions. I'm just beginning to sharpen my sword and haven't stepped to the front lines, but I'm walking forward and I'll do my damnedest.
Conversation topic - what makes a champion for you? Is it Jessica Ahlquist for standing up against threat of violence, or more like my dad the Vietnam Vet who raised 3 rational kids with no criminal record? Does the motivation play into it, or merely the outcome? Am I just a self-centered jerk, or am I saying what everyone thinks?