I sometimes think about why I do the things I do. Why do I read the books I read? Why do I watch the TV shows I do? Why do I do the job that I do? Why do I study the things that I study? Why do I blog about the things I blog about? The primary answer is that I do them because I like them, but the secondary answer is that I do them because I want to influence the world for good; at least my best understanding of “good.”
You might wonder what all of this has to do with a trailer for a documentary on Calvin and Hobbes. I crave influencing people for the better. I know that is not something that is high on everyone’s priority list, but it is high on mine. I have found my way into the jobs that I have because my personality type requires that a sense of doing good, and counselings and academic advising provide me with that level of fulfillment. Yet, I still find that sometimes I am frustrated by my lack of reach, I want to reach out beyond the people I work with one-on-one and put something out into society that is a positive influence on complete strangers. Right now, blogging is my main tool for that, but I do spend time pondering if there is a better way.
So, I starting thinking about this in the reverse and was wondering about complete strangers (defined as anyone whom I don’t personally know or who I have had minimal interaction with) who have had a profound impact on me personally through the work they have put out into society, and I came up with this list (including people both dead and alive):
- Jesus Christ
- Joseph Smith Jr.
- Gordon B. Hinckley
- Thomas S. Monson
- Bill Watterson
- Abraham Lincoln
- Paul the Apostle
- C. S. Lewis
- J. R. R. Tolkin
- Fritz Perlz
- James E. Talmage
- John Green
I was surprised that Bill Watterson was so high, but the more I thought about it, the more confident I was in his placement. I started reading Calvin and Hobbes in the late 1980’s and I was a huge fan. I bought every book I could with my own money. I wasn’t old enough to understand publishing schedules and there was no internet to announce when the next publication would take place, so I would go to Dolly’s Bookstore every so often just hoping beyond hope that there would be a new Calvin and Hobbes on the shelves.
These comic strips made me laugh, but they influenced me far beyond that. I was an introverted, bullied adolescent who longed to just enjoy life. By vicariously enjoying life through the lens of this rambunctious, imaginative little boy I was able to find comfort and solace in my own other-ness. His strips gave me joy and let me know that I could imagine myself as a space-explorer-extraordinaire or as a superhero in order to combat the mundane. That there was nothing wrong in indulging in my imagination.
Calvin and Hobbes hit me right when I was most impressionable to the message that they carried, and it influenced who I became in both subtle and dramatic ways.
I can only dream to influence some stranger out there as fundamentally as Bill Watterson’s work influenced me. I don’t know in what medium I will be able to express my thoughts and feelings, and I doubt I will ever be as successful as anyone on my list up above. Still, I will try. After all, if we all had as one of our life’s ambitions to leave behind something meaningful, that truly adds value to humanity as a species, then the world would undoubtedly be a better place.