Adding Real Value

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):

  1. Jesus Christ
  2. Joseph Smith Jr.
  3. Gordon B. Hinckley
  4. Thomas S. Monson
  5. Bill Watterson
  6. Abraham Lincoln 
  7. Paul the Apostle
  8. C. S. Lewis
  9. J. R. R. Tolkin
  10. Fritz Perlz
  11. James E. Talmage
  12. 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.

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)