I don’t know if it’s cool or sad to have a guiding principle in your life based off of a (very) minor character in a Salinger book. Sorenson’s fate in Franny and Zooey led me to reorient my view of people’s purpose in life. His ended up being a way to have some insight into another minor character. He didn’t change anything, he didn’t really register as a character to me until my 6th or 7th reading of the book. Still, the creator of that world thought he was important enough to have a name and to have a speaking part.
The thought struck me, what if I’m Sorenson? What if I were put here not for my contribution to the narrative as such, but simply in order to bring out thoughts and personality in someone else? What if I was simply there in order to highlight some negatives in those things? Sorenson affected Laine. And while Laine was a minor character, he had a big impact on one of the stars of the book. Sorenson is part of that chain, where am I on it? It’s a humbling thought and it can make you reevaluate how we all fit into each other’s lives.
I still like to think that I can be a positive influence on people. Maybe I’m misguided but I’ll cling on to that idea as it makes my view of myself more palatable. There’s no telling what the thing is that I will do that will have the biggest impact. Maybe something I say to them, or something I do to them, or near them triggers something in them. Maybe that leads that person to do great things, or maybe it leads them to do something that leads someone else to do great things. Maybe I’m just here to make someone hope the train arrives quickly so they can see their girlfriend and it turns out that she is a main character. Any complaint I have about Rilke can end up being the most important thing I ever do. If I want to be a positive force in this world, I’m well served by treating every interaction as a chance to improve things.
I find this to be a really rich way of approaching life. My current career is in retail, a job that most people see as soul destroying. It can certainly be that if you approach it in terms of what you will get out of it. If you approach it instead as how can I help the next person, it’s actually quite fulfilling. When you extend it to the rest of your life, every interaction can be meaningful. If nothing else, it keeps you on your toes. And oddly enough, by concentrating on the person in front of you, you could be influencing the rest of the world. So here I go, changing the world one person at a time.