Shawn Maxam explains the paradox of every person being important and irrelevant at the same time.
Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.
Special: Surpassing what is common or usual; exceptional
Unique: Being the only one of its kind, Without an equal or equivalent; unparalleled
Whether it is arrogance, hopefulness, ignorance, wishful thinking or some other motivating factor human beings all want to be different. I often thought many of the obstacles or life circumstances I encountered were only specific to my journey. I only wanted to claim the Black man, American, Jamaican immigrant, Bipolar Disorder sufferer and other community identities when convenient. Other than that I only wanted to be recognized as Shawn Maxam. This dueling desire led to a weary build-up of cognitive-dissonance.
I now understand that when confronted with pain people often want the comfort of knowing they aren’t alone. They want to belong to a group that reflects their flaws or troubles. It normalizes the experience. But when it comes to triumphs or successes we often want the opposite. We rather be not only the first one but the only one. The best, the brightest, the greatest and so forth. If there are more people like us than we feel as if our accomplishments are diminished. How could we not perceive the world in this matter? There is only one President of the USA, only one best new artist, only one best actor, only one fastest man in the world, one sexiest man alive, one Miss America and Universe etc. Of course there are former presidents, former best actors and artists but they no longer hold the title.
On the other hand when you’re an alcoholic, sex abuse victim, mood disorder sufferer and so forth you obviously 1) don’t want to be known as the only one 2) when in recovery the group therapy approach is the most popular dynamic because these are moments or traits that no one wants to acknowledge alone.
My feeling is that we should flip this way of thinking on its head. Regardless of your perceived deficiencies or strengths you are special. But you are also not very unique because you are a part of the human collective. Realizing that you’re individuality doesn’t supersede humanity and that humanity doesn’t diminish your individuality is the healthiest way to view the world.
Instead of asking ‘why me’ when bad things happen? You should ask ‘why us’? Why is this apart of the human condition and how can we be proactive about creating solutions.
Everyone’s special but no one’s unique is a healthy paradox. It is a well-informed contradiction. Within the context of adulthood it is true. You are special – to your family, friends and possible work colleagues. You are not unique – in comparison to the other 7 billion human beings living on this planet. Their lives are as equally valuable as your own.
So when you are faced with a bureaucratic bullshit situation or attempting to reconcile your spirituality or decide why “life” isn’t being fair to you or encountering any other roadblock just remember you aren’t the first person to either win or lose in life. We all have to take turn on this roller-coaster ride. No matter who you are the ups and downs (aka the ride’s design) is the same. We all just react differently.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
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