When you first begin to realize you’re never going to change the world

I was one of those little precocious kids who grew up, convinced that he was one day going to change the world. At first, it was going to be through science, as I studied physics, sure that I was able to see the world in ways that no one else possibly could. I had my ground-breaking theory that re-explained the universe’s creation through a process called neutra-matter (my own invention) that was the embodiment of light, and thus, the separation particle that kept the barrier between matter and anti-matter. It all made sense to me, and actually still does. I worked through college to become a physicist, and throughout my education, I devoted a great deal of time just trying to disprove the theory so I could move onto something better. And I never did. So it might be true. Or not. We’ll never know because I didn’t remain in physics, and even if I did, I hit a point where I started to realize that no one really cared.

Yeah, that was true. No one cared. I had this great idea, and I was convinced it could change science. But again, no one cared. So I moved onto a different field. Genetics.

In genetics, I was quickly invigorated with a new idea that consumed my every scientific thought. I now had a convincing argument as to how the AIDS/HIV strain first emerged, and coordinating this theory with the concepts of archaeology (which I was also studying at the time), I realized that there was a way to use my theory to trace down Patient Zero, and possibly erect a cure for AIDS by creating a genetic suppressor from the origin rather than from the current variation of the virus. And it made a lot of sense to me.

So, as this was during the dawn of the AIDS era, I managed to convince a coordinator of the first AIDS conference to listen to my theory, and she was so intrigued by it that she arranged a meeting with me and a group of scientists who were all part of the first conference. They read my report, called me in and then in a round table discussion, asked me all sorts of questions about my theory. And they were intrigued. And then one of them asked me where I got my medical degree, and I revealed that my education was in physics, and that I did not have a medical degree. Essentially, the discussion was over, and no one was really interested in hearing anything else I had to say. In the end, my theory was shelved, and I went on with my life. Decades later, AIDS is still out there, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be cured any time soon. Of course, I can’t say my theory would have done it, but it bothers me that it was never followed up.

Many years later, I was in graduate school after doing the whole Ph.d thing in political science. This time, however, I was pursuing communication. And suddenly it dawned on me that our usual process for conducting diplomacy was wrong. In the middle of the night, I woke up with an additive theory, utilizing political science international theory, interpersonal communication theories, a communication rhetoric theory and a mathematical model I designed in my head that would eventually be completed through computer modeling. This new theory, I predicted, would lead to a brand new way of conducting negotiations and diplomacy. Latching onto one of my fellow grad students with a background in history, we wrote up a theoretical paper on this and then presented it at communication conference. After that, a few people from different organizations contacted me by email asking me more questions, but over time, I starrted to realize that it also required people to really think differently than what they were used to. When I tried to present it to the Obama Administration, I realized no one was really interested in learning. People were pretty satisfied with doing things the way they had been doing them since the days of Caesar, so very quickly I got the impression that I was barking up trees that no one wanted me barking near. So I gave up on that as well.

The point is: At some point, you start to realize that no matter how many great ideas you have, eventually you’re probably going to hit the point where you realize that most people generally don’t care. The status quo is so much easier to stick with, so the amount of work involved in getting anyone interested in change is practically at a ridiculous premium. It’s a lot like the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s going on right now. I mean, they have great ideas and the best intentions at heart. But the reality is that no one is going to listen to them, and mostly what they will receive for their efforts is ridicule and pepper spray. You can’t convince people to change their ways, even if the change is in their own best interests.

So, at some point, you have to realize that as much as you like, you can have all of the greatest intentions in the world, but at some point you need to do the proverbial growing up of reality and settle for mediocrity and, if lucky, a small step after a period of anarchical punctuated equilibrium.

That’s where I am now. There are so many things I wanted to do with my life, so many things I thought I would do with my life, but in the end, I realize that it really didn’t amount to much. No fame. No fortune. No changing of the minds of the masses or even a few leaders. Not even a really cool career or a stable girlfriend (or an unstable one for that matter). At some point, you begin to realize that all you really have is an apartment full of friendly stuffed animals, a shelf of unpublished, or crappily published, novels, reruns of Star Trek and a World of Warcraft account. Had I known that a long time ago, I probably would have chosen a much easier route to get here.

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.

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