Friday, November 19, 2010

are you special?

People all want to fit in, want to be respected and loved by the world for who they are, accepted. It feels great to be part of a community, to work together towards a common goal and participate alongside others. I like to think of it as us all being individual cells in a common, larger body -- I'm sure other people have found similar metaphors. Except maybe it's not even a metaphor at all, but how reality works!
The ego (in the Buddhist sense, not the Freudian sense) has a different aim; the ego wants us to be special, set apart, unique. To be (or at least be seen as) the most _____, the worst _____, the best _____, having the most extreme experiences -- and deserving extra attention for it. But setting oneself apart doesn't actually lead to long-term happiness. Instead it is a path leading only to isolation and that deep-seated agony because "no one understands you".

The drive to be special, to be separate, is a drive we all have to acknoledge and then ignore. Sure, for the greater good we can strive to be the best at, say, solving global warming or something, but the point should be solving the problem, not in happening to be #1 at it.

We like to think our experiences are pretty special. Why else would we get to experience them? Things are pretty intense, after all! Well, sure. And it's great to be so in the moment that what might otherwise be mundane feels fully profound. Being alive is supposed to be awesome and intense, even when just pouring milk over your cereal! But should this entitle you to extra attention or whatnot?

The short-term vindication of having your uniqueness acknowledged tends quickly to become both a craving for more of the same and a disorientation from the resulting separation from the rest of the community.

Hahaha, ok, this probably seems petty when talking about things like how you managed to blow out ALL your birthday candles on the first exhalation. I'll cut to the chase.

I too like to think I am a bit special. I am synaesthetic, so I hear my sense of touch, and see tastes and smells, etc. It's pretty cool I guess, took a while growing up before I realized how much this differs from the ordinary experience. Also, I'm smart (doing really well at school and scoring really well on those tests), I sometimes can do creative things kinda well, etc. And just this past week the doctors are saying I'm almost certainly epileptic.

I guess that makes me special!

But to get lost in the chatter of my mind, parading in the glow of self-congratulatory affirmation of how, fuck yes, I am pretty darn special, different from all those other people in substantial ways, etc., well, that doesn't do me any good. Not to say someone with amazing composition abilities should suddenly stop writing music just to blend in with the crowd. No, no, use your talents and skills and uniqueness to contribute to this place as best you can! Just don't except special treatment or let it get to your head.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: despite spending most of our teenage years looking for ways to set ourselves apart, it's a duty to ourselves, our sanity and our society to nod kindly to the ego, give it a head pat, and tuck it aside. It doesn't get you anywhere. Do your best, don't require or seek out recognition, and see that it's actually pretty great to reclaim your spot alongside everyone else as an Awesome Human.

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