Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

There’s a saying that goes something like, “I’m unique…just like everybody else.” We all want to be seen as trailblazers, as independent, as original, to see the world differently from anyone else. We want that to be true.

So what does that look like?

How can we strive to be unique when, for the most part, we’re the same as everyone else. Is it a futile exercise?

I was out with friends once, and made small talk with an older gentleman sitting at the bar. He looked around and said, “I already know everyone in here. I’ve known them all before.” He didn’t mean it literally, of course. But he meant that each person in there met a previously established prototype in his experience. There has been someone like us before and there will be another one after. There are probably some existing even at the same time. Whoaaaa, crazy, huh?

As an artist, it has been ingrained in me as truth that nothing I create will ever be an original idea. That’s hard to hear sometimes. But even as I write this, there are probably hundreds of other blog entries that talk about this same thing.

But today, I think of it this way:

We are a thousand different perspectives on an elephant. We might all be looking at the same elephant, but from each of our unique sum of experiences, we’re standing in different places in the field. One person’s view of the elephant is strictly two-dimensional. But when we combine everyone’s two-dimensional views from a thousand different places, we end up with a three-dimensional creature. We can describe it from where we stand, and it’s one thing, but combined with everyone else’s views, it becomes more whole and complex–literally multi-dimensional.

The man at the bar might see me as fitting the characteristics of someone else in his experience, but to someone else, I am completely different altogether, perhaps fitting a completely different prototype. I am the sum of the experience of everyone I meet. I am the sum of my views of myself. And everything I experience is through my own lens.

So in a sense, there is potential for originality. But not based on any one person’s view–not even your own.

How do you view yourself? How might someone else view you differently? How does this affect the practice of self-definition?

Photo credits: anankkml & africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


6 thoughts on “Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

  1. “I am the sum of the experience of everyone I meet. I am the sum of my views of myself. And everything I experience is through my own lens.” Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. Everything I experience is not through my own lens. I am much more than the sum of my views of myself and the experience of others. And so are you.

    I believe my existence is an original idea to God or He would not have needed to create me. If “parts are parts” and we’re all just some lame variation on the same old theme, then what would be the point of any single individual and what kind of artist would that make God? I believe we each have a unique contribution to make to the world daily and our goal (ideally) should be to discover what it is we can offer that no one else can.

    While ideas and concepts like love or beauty may not be original to a single artist, I guarantee the way each artist renders the idea will be. That’s the beauty of our being created in the image of God, not as the sum of the experience of human beings. It is that divine spark that inspires art.

    Provocative topic, Allison, and I love the illustration of the elephant to make your point. You ARE unique – it’s not a futile exercise. Thanks for letting me weigh in!

  2. I like reading this to start my day! Thank you for finding words to express…..we are all unique and that is part of the beauty of creation. (Clearly part of my uniqueness is that I am not a writer like you and Diane) 🙂

  3. I have to agree with Diane, Allison, but I totally understand this perspective. It’s part of the cynicism of being a) a human being, and b) an artist. I took art and writing classes in college and professors have the beautiful intention of teaching their students that there is more to life and art and truth than your own perspective. And I get that, and in one respect it’s true. But, God is the ultimate author and artist. And that deep longing that we have to create and be unique is a yearning he placed in us when He created us. We were created by Him in His image, and He is as diverse and new as they come.

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