The World Is Malleable

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
– Steve Jobs

When I was younger, I lived in two worlds: the external world – sometimes scary, always new, and fast-paced; and my inner world – a network of ideas, emotions, and experiences. I felt more comfortable in my own mind, and I tended to value ideas and theorizing rather than dealing with the messy external world.

As I have matured both emotionally and intellectually, I am becoming less of an “observer” and more of a “doer,” and I’m learning to combine those two worlds. When I was younger, I focused on gathering ideas from books and the outside world. I loved reading about different topics in the library, but I never felt like using these ideas to create something in the external world. But now that I feel my ideas are becoming more developed, I am focusing on getting them into the world. Self-expression used to be a meaningless concept to me because I was content on living in my own little bubble. Now, it feels as if all of the thoughts and feelings in my head are overflowing, and I need the external world to absorb some of my ideas.

I’m sort of in a “creating” phase in which I am trying to build and make more things. And I don’t claim that creating is more important than observing and synthesizing, because without observation and synthesis, there would be no meaningful creations. But I do think I’ve pushed into the final phase of design: actually making stuff in the real world. I’ve gone through a significant paradigm shift in my life in which I am now trying to sculpt the world with the vision I have in my mind.

I believe our educational system is mainly to blame for brainwashing us into believing that life is about conformity, and about sitting in the sidelines rather than doing real things. In school, you are taught to obey the rules and to not cause too much havoc. Fit in, don’t stand out. Learn all of these things that dead people figured out because they know so much and you know nothing yet.

But then slowly, you realize that the way things are now don’t have to be how they are, and isn’t how it should be. You realize that your premises are not the stone walls that you knew so well, but flimsy, straw houses. You realize how easily these stone walls could have been some other structure had you been taught differently. You realize how complacent some people are — how unconsciously they live their lives, how they live like zombies following their masters. You realize that you want to live differently: with deliberation and a healthy dose of skepticism.

It’s dangerous to live without critical thinking skills and the knowledge that the world is malleable. That’s how dictators come into power, how a nation can be beguiled into committing genocide, and how one can be taken advantaged of. Because really, people who commit bad deeds aren’t inherently evil — they just don’t live consciously enough, and they don’t develop sound principles and push their vision into the world.

By consciously creating the world you live in, you have so much power — both in the world and over yourself. Yes, it may make you seem a little rebellious, but that’s what the world needs. The world can never be bettered through observation alone.

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