I was watching the movie Angels and Demons, which is remarkably similar to the book, and it got me thinking. Specifically, the part where all of the Cardinals go behind closed doors to elect a Pope. How interesting must it be to be in that group? The few people in the world tasked with picking the next Pope.
It must be rewarding to be part of a group that does something beneficial like that. I imagine that most Cardinals work very hard to achieve being a Cardinal. The reward, or I suppose worst part of the job depending on your view, is getting to be one of the few people in the world that pick the human leader of the Catholic Church.
That scene reminded me of several instances from my past. One of those instances was when I desired to be part of a group, yet I did not make the cut. It took me a long time to mentally get over the fact that I wasn't going to be part of that group. After hours of thinking about it I realized, to the best of my knowledge, that group really wasn't benefiting the community in a way that I thought they had the ability to benefit the community. Instead it created tension and anxiety. The group was very good at recognizing significant contributors, yet when it had all of these significant contributors in the same place nothing seemed to develop for the benefit of others.
I thought about other groups I've been apart of like clubs, teams, social circles, states, cities, and staffs. I asked myself, 'what type of group is it that I really want to be part of?' I realized the answer pretty quickly. I want to be part of a think tank with some of the smartest people in the world that solves the world's problems. After laughing at that ridiculous notion I realized that while I define smart as problem solving ability I have no idea who the smartest people in the world are. I can't name one for certain. Is Bill Gates one of the smartest people in the world? Or is he just an average technology guy with a fair amount of drive that was in the right place at the right time who knew the right people? Is Barack Obama one of the smartest people in the world? Or is he just a really good public speaker that a bunch of people convinced to run for President? Was Albert Einstein one of the smartest people in the world? I think he was. Or is it possible for one of the smartest people in the world to never learn how to drive a car because he was confused by mechanical things?
It's interesting the twists our mind takes. Getting back to the original topic... everyone is a member of society in someway. We are all part of the group. Everyone has a mother and a father and four grandparents, biologically anyway. I wonder as I live in my parents basement, what am I possibly contributing to the world?
Engineers often struggle with the notion that we are in the world to solve technical problems and make people rich. How do I positively address the fact that I helped Sikorsky improve a heat treating process? How does that help anyone?
I want to be part of a group. Margaret Mead said it well, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."