I continue to struggle with the responsibility of being an individual that inspires, in part because I haven’t fully internalized that responsibility and am not sure I want to. I have been told by others that I inspire them, and trust them in their word, but my apprehension lies in actively TRYING to inspire others. To be honest, I’m often NOT trying to inspire others. I’m living my life, as I always have, just making the most of my time, abbreviated timeline or not. This has always been my day to day, and if others are inspired by my words and actions, then who am I to deny them.
But with inspiration comes a reluctant responsibility. To inspire someone means, to some degree or for even a brief moment, they rely on me. They expect a return from my words, from my actions, to continue this stream of inspiration…and I might not deliver.
I might be a downright disappointment. I may struggle. I may become incredibly negative. I may fall back into petty gripes and non-issues. And that’s just me…I’m not a role model and I’m not a poster boy for inspiration. I’m just a guy trying to live the fullest I possibly know how despite any number of obstacles that meet me along the way. Debt. Failed relationships. Conflict. Cancer.
I have enough to deal with and taking on the deliberate role of “inspirational individual” isn’t necessarily of my own making, and so I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with that dichotomy of potential success and failure. I don’t even know HOW to be that person. This is all very new to me.
But all that is only partially true, just a way of dismissing the effort to try, and protecting my potential failure, because you know what, I DO want to inspire others. I WANT to be someone others look to for perspective, for drive, for motivation…as downright frightening as that is. I don’t want to let people down. I want to help people experience a greater emotional intensity, just the same as I get from others.
Because I’ve suddenly found myself in the position to do so, connecting to more and more people through an experience others find unique and…well…inspiring. I can’t deny that. Whether I want the responsibility or not, it is there, and it would be somewhat insulting if I were to ignore the context, put my head down and just go. That’s an insult to everyone who doesn’t have an opportunity as impactful like this.
And lately I’ve been feeding that responsibility, that newfound role, primarily through my social media channels in which I’m connected to most people. When I feel the twinge of narcissism and worry about putting up yet another photo of my latest run or cancer-based experience, I err on the side of inspiration and honesty, of showing the more complete story, of giving another example of passionate living. And cats. I also show cats.
Before I go further, let’s address a crucial component to inspiration. It often leans on others…and that’s dangerous. To find motivation outside yourself is to be vulnerable, to be susceptible to other’s decisions, to lose control, to relinquish agency of your own life, to give power to those that have no responsibility for your well-being. To rely on others for emotional stability can be problematic, and at it’s worse, dangerous.
First and foremost, every individual must be inspired BY THEMSELVES. Every individual must find the confidence in their actions, the motivation to take risks, the drive to find perspective, the inspiration to live the most passionate life they can muster. The only one we all owe responsibility to is the emotional individual within us, the only one we should ultimately rely upon, for when everything around you collapses and everyone abandons you…none of that matters.
We should all be inspired by ourselves. We should experience accomplishment and passion, and be driven to seek and find it again and again, because we know directly what that feels like, to have achieved it on our own.
To the individual who has lost all emotional self-reliance, what is a world with no more internet memes, no inspirational phrases plastered over images of mountaintops, no Oprah quotes on coffee cups, no friends to get them out the door, no spiritual texts and self-help sections to peruse, no feedback loops of affirmation from everyone else needing the crutch of others accomplishments?
Personally, I don’t want to know.
I want to know the inspiration I get from others is not a foundation to my emotional experience, but an addition, an addendum, an enhancement, and if they are not there for me…I’ll still be ok. I want that for myself and I want that for everyone else as well. Before everyone else, inspire yourself.
Here is where everything gets tricky. I am NOT one for empty gestures and hollow words. I want honest, tangible meaning behind the verbiage we throw around, and lately it seems like “inspiration” has fallen into this catch-all trap of perceived positivity and feel good back-patting. Individuals have been building careers, cults of personality and personal empires around the relatively empty idea of “inspiration”, and that makes me nauseous. I do NOT want to be associated with this new culture of “inspiring individuals” if this manner of inspiration is simply to make others feel momentarily good…for no purpose.
What exactly are we saying when we talk of inspiring or being inspired? Is there any moral responsibility to it? Does it progress the individual in any meaningful way? Are we just being patronizing?
In my own experience, one of not fully accepting the responsibility of being inspirational, I have remained uncomfortable without directing this matter of inspiration people have professed to get from my situation. Ultimately, I trust this received inspiration is positive, constructive, and valuable to the individual, and so that is great…but for me, that is not enough.
I would never want to be that “inspirational speaker” that tells my personal story, of overcoming adversity or whatever, and just letting the feel-good experience slowly dissipate. I want to be impactful, in a TANGIBLE way. I want to drive people towards a better life, for themselves, but also for others…with purpose…with teeth.
Hitler was an inspired individual. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired individuals.
When we leave “inspiration” completely open, not rooting it in purpose, intent, or defined morality, we create at it’s most innocent, a worthless gesture, but at it’s worst, a dangerous premise. Granted, I highly doubt anything I could offer to others through my personal experience would result in a dangerous premise, but nor do I want to leave anyone with a worthless gesture either. I want to root my inspiration in something tangible.
With that said, I want to inspire others towards veganism, towards recognizing the disconnect our social context has created between human animals and non-human animals, and the ways it compels us to see ourselves as “others”, somehow above our obvious animal behaviors, absurdly separate from all the instincts and emotional lives every other creature on this earth share with us. I want to inspire others to tear down the figurative and literal walls of separation between our emotional lives and the emotional lives of animals being confined and tortured by the economic and egotistical impulses of modern civilization and all it’s machinations. I want to inspire as many human animals as I possibly can to make the choice to go vegan, in diet and lifestyle.
Connected to that drive, I also want to inspire others to reframe the way they view the world, our power structures, our sense of agency, our relation to immediate neighbors and those we will never see, our place in the timeline of existence…and how all that informs our sense of morality, our heightened sense of self-importance, our involvement with the social contract that none of us signed upon being birthed into this world. I want individuals to become individuals, to erase the unthinking associations they have found themselves seemingly attached, to shed all the absurdities of modern civilization and get back to being humans that think for themselves, develop moralities that fit into their personalized contexts, to shed ideas of religious subservience, nationalism, speciesism, separatism, economic superiority…to simply be human.
And to be human is to be self-reliant, while engaging with a supportive community, and continuously seeking a fulfilled and passionate existence, to recognize the absences in our lives and fill them with a value that makes us proud and excited to be alive. To be inspired.
A positively inspired, morally inspired, intellectually inspired human is not suicidal, does not seek the excesses of drugs, is not driven by religious fanaticism, is compassionate towards their fellow beings, is not susceptible to empty gestures and hollow words, is able to fight through adversity and the inevitability of physical and emotional obstacles, is able to meet the conflicts of the world with perspective and action….and does not settle for less.
An inspired individual meets their deathbed like everyone else, but the one who ran through life inspired with teeth does so with an appeasement, an acceptance, an unmatched contentment. If I have a part in helping anyone achieve that, I will be indescribably grateful to have been put in this position, but no matter my role, I’ll continuously be seeking this degree of inspiration for myself. And that will be enough. I only wish the same for everyone else.