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?