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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » Change the world or be happy?

   
Author Topic: Change the world or be happy?
legendad
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Toward the very end of Children Of The Mind, Card discusses the new Peter, and writes the following, "Ender's truest son would make of this life, if not something as profoundly world-changing as Ender's life had been, then something happier."

This line jarred me as much as anything in all four books. I understand in the context of the novels the sense that Ender's life had been world-changing and yet often, maybe mostly, profoundly unhappy. But it got me thinking--translating this idea to the "real" world. Is a world-changing life and happiness mutually exclusive?

A friend who's extremely accomplished and whom I greatly respect once said, "What does every person want? To change the world." He meant this in a happy and positive way. Whether we cure a disease or just give back to one person in need, we all can change the world in our own way. So, I've gone about my life working to make a difference and change the world, whether that turns out to be small or big. Does that mean I'm neccessarily doomed to unhappyness? Is the Dalai Lama unhappy? I can imagine an argument that the answer to both these questions is "yes."

Is Card just reflecting narrowly on the circumstances of his characters, or does this line have more profound implications?

I'm interested in your thoughts.

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DustinDopps
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I have no desire to change the world and I consider myself a very happy person. My wife and kids bring me joy and the rest of life is providing a stable environment for them (and me, of course).

I wouldn't go so far as to say that a desire to change the world is narcissism, but there's certainly a selfish component to it. Wanting to feed the hungry and care for orphans is a noble pursuit, but I don't think that's what most people mean when they say they want to "change the world."

So I would say that people who want to change the world to be famous or establish a legacy are likely unhappy. But people who want to make life better for other people are probably pretty content.

Just my opinion.

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legendad
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Well, DustinDopps, there's nothing inconsistent then for you.

Certainly some human desires which result in changing the world stem from narcissism. But I suspect that the causation may be reversed. I think others are interested in having a broader (positive) impact in the world, beyond thier immediate family (although raising a family well is a huge job and can have one of the most profound and sustainable positive effects on the world--leaving well-adjusted people in your place who will do good)

I'm just curious what Card might have meant about the "real" world outside the novel by this line, and whether or not it's true. The work, dedication, sacrafices, and trade-offs verses family, for instance, might well make most large undertakings so difficult that the ultimate satisfaction of helping others is outweighed by the unhappines during pursuit. Founding a business, starting a charity, running a charter school, running for office are potential examples.

Do you give so much of yourself (as Ender did) in your pursuit to "make a difference" that you inevitably have nothing left, leaving you unhappy? How inevitable is this?

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Synesthesia
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Why not do both? You change the world in small ways by being kind and doing good in the world. Even having kids and raising them with compassion has a life long effect on their kids and their kid's kids.

(Of course in Ender's case he married into a dysfunctional family and got tricked into killing billions, he's probably not a good example, but it is nice to help people, be compassion, heck, even helping old people feed their dogs would be a good thing.)

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Aros
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We can't do it all, though. I can't be at home for my kids every day AND saving lives in the military. I can't leave everything behind and become a circus performer. Heck, the Buddha left his wife and kids behind to become an freaking hermit.

What defines happiness? Is it relative? I think value is different for everyone based on who they are and what they want.

As far as the quote, I think that you're reading too much into it. Ender brought a lot of death and pain. In repentance, he became the Speaker. He changed the world but at an unhappy cost. His "truest son" could make a difference that might not have as much impact, but might be happier, less sorrowful.

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