This I Believe
I was asked to write a “This I believe” (http://thisibelieve.org/) essay for my Rapid Design for Slow Change class. This is what I wrote:
Reality Can Be Beaten
I believe that reality can be beaten. History has seen an endless number of realities. If you want to eat, it’s going to be raw, because we haven’t discovered fire yet. If you have poor eyesight, it sucks to be you. You want to vote? But you’re a woman! Don’t be ridiculous. Smallpox, rabies, polio, oh my! Worries that our ancestors used to have hardly even cross our minds. Those realities were beaten. We get to travel around the world (and out of it), ask the internet what movie that girl was in with that guy from X-men, and capture moments of history with the push of a button.
We have all had to beat reality. Personal realities are beaten every day. In high school I was straight. I was just like my friends. Those gay thoughts I would have about some of my classmates weren’t actually MY thoughts. They belonged to one of my other personalities. I was schizophrenic, you see. It didn’t matter that much though, because I would grow out of it eventually. I didn’t have to tell anyone about it because any day all of my other personalities, like the one that was gay, the one that lashed out at my friends, and the one that was suicidal, would all just go away, and I’d be just like any other straight boy.
Beating reality requires something all of us have, but many of us suppress: an imagination. To beat reality, one must be able to dream of something better. To do that, one must simply try. I couldn’t continue lying to myself and to other people. I couldn’t continue pretending that I would eventually marry a woman, have children, and never tell anyone that the only thing I wanted in the world was to hold the hand of that boy who sat next to me in English class. So I imagined a place where I could be who I wanted to be without dirty looks, nasty words, or worse. What came next was nothing short of design. Creating a new reality is no easy task, but once I had imagined one, there was no going back.
Being able to dream of a better world is what makes us human. Acting on those dreams is what makes us designers. I believe that design is directed imagination. It’s volitional imagination. It’s actionable imagination. I believe that reality can be beaten with enough design.
Austin Toombs is PhD student at Indiana University Bloomington studying Human Computer Interaction Design. He is an Experience Designer with a programming and software development background. He enjoys rolling around in the snow, creating with his hands, reading, people watching, and hugging strangers.
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