A Changing World

A friend of mine told me recently that after many years of trying, he has concluded that he cannot change the world. He will do his best wherever he can, but he has resigned himself to the reality that the world seems stubbornly resistant to changing at the rate and in the direction he desires. I think this was a wise choice. The world, of course, with its births and deaths, its rising suns and flowing rivers, is changing every single moment of every single day. It can’t help but to do so. But no matter how many fraternities and sororities we join, no matter how many fashion trends we follow, no matter how many doctrines we live by, humans remain bound by the laws of their impregnable autonomy. Like it or not, we have no choice but to make up our own minds, even if we make up our minds to do what someone else tells us to.

Frustrating, I know, but it’s true. No one in the history of the world has ever changed anyone else’s mind—not Jesus, not Gandhi, not M. L. King, not Shakespeare or Toni Morrison or John Lennon. What these people did do was offer attractive alternate realities. That’s all anyone can do, be they writer or diplomat or grandmother. As we offer these realities we must grant our readers, our friends, and our parents the full right of refusal. To do otherwise would not be to offer but to demand, and the quickest way to be rejected is to demand someone accept you.

As writers we often find ourselves believing we must be accepted. It isn’t true. No one in the world must accept anything we offer. What we must accept, however, are those gifts that come to us as we listen for our stories. Once received, we should return them as faithfully and attractively as possible in what we write. There is nothing more to be done but trust that the gift we received could not have been for us alone, and that the world changes not just by tides and seasons, but the simple and continued act of like souls seeking companionship.

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