How Important Are Important People?

There are people who hold an outsize place in our culture. We tend to mythologize individuals, and celebrate their role, for good or evil.

Why do we do this?

First, we tend to want to put a face to an organization or to a group. For example, Tim Cook is Apple. Pope Francis is the Catholic Church. Lebron James is basketball. A group of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people is difficult to conceptualize. But one name, one face that stands for a movement is something we can comprehend.

We also like to remember important contributions. Albert Einstein’s scientific contributions are such that his name and appearance have become synonymous with science. Mother Theresa was a symbol of kindness and generosity to the whole world.

But whether it is a celebrity, an athlete, or a musician, famous people drive ratings, increase page views, and sell newspapers. So clearly some people are considered, by society, more important than others. More worthy of attention.

What is the alternative?

However, an entire political movement has sprung up to combat this. Talk of income inequality, of the 1% — the richest and most powerful of society — is featured on debate stages and town hall meetings around the country. If wealth and influence are considered “important”, there is an ongoing effort to return some power and voice to those who don’t have it.

While it is worthwhile to appreciate the contributions of individuals, does that also have the effect of minimizing the efforts of others with a lower profile? Steve Jobs was a visionary, sure, but it was the engineers and software programmers of Apple that actually produced the iPod, iPhone, Macintosh computer, and other products. It is the rare individual whose success doesn’t rely on the efforts of dozen, or hundreds of unheralded workers.

Do we, as a society, give too much credit to too few people? Or is fame and fortune fully deserved (and obscurity of others so implied)? How important are important people? Does it matter how important is defined?

Related questions: What is important? Where does authority come from? Who is the most important person in your life? Which historical person would you like to meet?

 

What Is Keeping Us From Sustaining The Planet?

The U.S. Global Change Research Program just delivered “The Fourth National Climate Assessment” to Congress and the President. While the report does not present a pretty picture, it concludes with tangible actions that Americans can collectively — nationally, regionally, and locally — take to mitigate our situation as well as adapt to changes that are already certain to happen.

The report begins: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”

With us already seeing the impacts of climate change, what is keeping us from taking action to sustain the planet? We are experiencing more intense forest fires and hurricanes, disappearing coastlines, and changing climate zones. If not for the sake of the planet, what about for current younger generations who must live on a less hospitable globe?

What! What will it take?

Related questions:  Now or Later? What Do You Revere? What Are You Doing to Make the World a Better Place? How Can You Help? What Are Our Responsibilities to Others? What Is the Greatest Problem Facing Humanity?

 

What Do You Revere?

The positive emotions we associate with the people or things in our lives can vary quite drastically. We might feel love; we might feel fondness. Desire, kinship, envy, even respect. Beyond all of those feelings, however, lies a deep and powerful feeling of admiration bordering on worship: reverence.

The things we revere can tell us a lot about ourselves, about what we value and who we want to be.

For example, if your reverence is to a deity, you might be a deeply religious person, which can shape your social circle and your views on others. If you revere an idea, like equality, that might influence your political views and actions. Those with reverence for money might seek out high-paying careers.

It might seem illogical, but you can even revere irreverence. Someone who is an iconoclast, who bristles at authority or expectations of normality, irreverence may be held up above all else.

What do you revere?

To figure this out, you might think about what you have been drawn to your entire life. What books you read, what topics of conversation come up again and again. Think about what ideas resonate with you.

Do you think you share this with the people you spend time with, either your family, your friends, or your co-workers? How important is it that you revere the same things as the people around you? How important is it to find a group of people who revere the same things as you?

Related questions: What is important? Why is love important? What humbles you? How important is respect?