Art, of any form, retains the power to change the world because it has the capability to influence the way that we think; art is a phenomenon of inspiration that begets inspiration through the power of memetics. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “memetics” is defined as: “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another…”
Basically, what this means, in plain English, is that memes (which can come in any artistic form: a painting, a work of literature, a song, a movie, etc.) help to mold our beliefs of right and wrong, and opinions of accepted and taboo social behavioral constructs, based upon what input stimuli we choose to behold. Or, in even simpler English: memes affect the way that we think if we allow them to. Because memes are non-living constructs of our minds that can continue on after our physical deaths, we can continue to live on in the minds of others for generations longer, having greater influence upon the world than merely biologically procreating, having children.
The Gift Of Icons And Legends
To become an icon or a legend is to achieve the highest status of long-lasting memetic impact upon society. These are the people whose life-stories live on as works of art in themselves, that embed tiny seeds of morality and stimulation that sprout subconsciously within our minds as we grow in life, affecting the decisions that we make as our egos harden on our path to self-actualization.
Examples of legends and icons could be Beowulf, Bruce Lee, William Wallace, Alexander the Great, Che Guevara, St. Joan of Arc, among countless others. How many people did the accomplishments of Bruce Lee inspire to become martial artists? How many people did the meme of William Wallace and Che Guevara galvanize into standing up against governmental oppression? How many women did the story of St. Joan of Arc motivate to break societal gender roles? How many entrepreneurs, soldiers, etc. did Alexander the Great inspire to push the bounds of human existence? How many do each of these still continue to, to this very day, despite all of them having been deceased for many years?
I mention Beowulf because his story has been retold so many times throughout the generations that he’s been rendered into nothing more than an entertaining fictional character; however, the story is, in fact, still studied and analyzed in schools to this very day. Stories like Beowulf have the potential to affect the minds of countless people around the globe… yet they don’t even physically exist (at least not anymore). One doesn’t have to physically exist in order to be an icon because icons are merely ideas. For any mortal to transcend into an idea within the minds of others is the pinnacle of evolutionary existence for any living being: to become, in oneself, a historical landmark in the development of our species. Some may even figuratively consider it to be a state of existential godliness or sainthood. If we find that we lack the personal ability to become an icon or a legend ourselves, we can create them in forms of myths and/or fictional characters thus; this is what the writer and artist Akira Toriyama accomplished with the creation of Goku, the protagonist of the Japanese anime, called Dragonball Z, a character who’s inspired children, teenagers, and adults alike all over the world, in multiple ways, for several generations now.
All we are in the minds of others is what others perceive us to be. This may not be the actual reality of who we are, but it means that we all share a collective consciousness; therefore, if, with our actions, we live in such a way that we both embody and uncompromisingly become the embodiment of an ideal (or ideals), then our life-stories can carry on with the memetic power necessary to shape an entire generation of thought and behavior, spreading through each of us like a virus because of the perceptual reality that we together share.
“An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” –Cobb (Inception, 2010)
Writing can change the world because to write is to take an idea and put it into a format that sires inspiration within others via the means of inception that can potentially last forever.
“Ideas that formulate into stories are just another form of genetics that pass down and influence future generations; the stories evolve as the people and mediums used to convey these stories evolve. It raises an eyebrow overlooking the point at which we as a species first began to influence ourselves in that regard; I dare say since the dawn of history itself, since the first story ever told, the first urban legend, the first tall tale ever told anywhere in any culture. In comparison, Alexander the Great was absolutely inspired by the tales of old in his time; he carried a copy of the Iliad (the story of the fall of Troy, encompassing the fate of the great warriors: Achilles and Hektor) with him on military campaigns. Inspired or influenced by such a story (and others, for sure), he traversed his life being led by his heart upon the path before his feet, crimson-washed by the blood of his fallen foes and brethren alike; its bricks laid by each of the legendary greats who came before him on the pursuit for glory to conquer and expand his empire, not only to unite the world under one king, but for the sake of his own legend, which would therein influence future generations just as past ones had influenced him…” –an excerpt from Fighting for Redemption
The simple ability to biologically procreate, to spread one’s genetic seed in the form of children, is the easiest or most common method of contributing a legacy to humanity. But to be a person or character who ascends into the becoming of an idea, and then to be an idea that transforms into a spreadable story, implanting that idea into the minds of others is to spawn a legacy far greater than having any number of children, because you inherently, by the way of inception, shape the minds of all of whom would encounter it, even if the character in question is fictional.
Which icons, legends, historical figures or fictional characters have changed your world? In what way have they done it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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