Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Impact and Influence

A while back I wrote an article entitled Force and Fallout, which touches on the concept that an artist uses his force of will to create a great work. This impact generates a fallout-like residual effect. However, the more I think about these words, the more I find myself using them in the negative. What I mean is, these words are culturally loaded to describe unfavorable circumstances more than favorable ones.

When I was composing the article, I did feel a sense that I was not communicated my idea clearly, but lacked any other words to use. In rethinking this edifice now, it seems to me that an artist's work has more of an "impact." Related words, certainly, but with different attitudes.

"Impact" seems to express a willing movement among those on which it has an impact. For whatever reason, it invokes the image of a meteor (an otherworldly object) falling to Earth. People gather out of curiosity to marvel at the strange spectacle. Why it doesn't invoke images of death and destruction, I can't say.

Rather than fallout, a meteor would generate influence. This is perhaps the fault of a multitude of science fiction plots dealing with a similar scenario. Meteor falls to Earth, people gain strange superpowers, etc. In any case, the initial impact is sure to generate ripples which change things—even a little. Word about the spectacle spreads, and more people come to view and be changed by it.

But contrast "impact" and "influence" with the original terms of "force" and "fallout," to see a very different picture. The former are set out before a willing audience, and run their course naturally. The latter are introduced in such as way as to get beyond natural defenses, and so wreak havoc.

While both are a surprise, an "impact" is welcome, while "force" is unwelcome. Furthermore, "influence" is voluntary according the value of the impact. In other words, a meteor is only interesting for a short period of time after which it's just a rock. "Fallout" is not restricted by natural barriers because it has been forced past the audience's defensive filters—either by overwhelming them or by exploiting a weakness in them.

Many well-meaning "artists" exploit emotional channels, rely heavily on pervasive media, and/or lobby for government programs to get their message across. They want to change the world for the better. The trouble is, each person or minority group that tries to do this has a specific definition of what a better world looks like. When an idea is forced upon a populace—perfect as it may be for many—it necessary creates a fallout of animosity and other degenerative epidemics.

When people are allowed to choose, many will say "no" to perfectly good ideas. This is normal. If it's truly a good idea, they'll come around eventually.

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