Conversation 4: I guess we all like to think we are unique. What's more, each one of us is. No two people are identical. We all have a unique mix of features, aptitudes, ideas and beliefs resulting from our unique mix of genes and experiences.
Conversations with God: I was born unique
At the same time, we all have things in common. Rarely are individual attributes unique. I know I have many attributes that are found in others. I have many attributes in common with my peers and other in my world.
It's not the attributes, but our personal mix of characteristics, that make us unique - stemming from our own mix of genes and experiences.
For many years, it was the view of science that a baby was born a tabula-raza – a blank slate ready to be shaped and developed into a functioning human being. While this view has since been discredited and the impact of genetics recognised, there is no doubt that much of the development of a human being occurs after birth.
In my humble (OK, perhaps not so humble) view, it is not only important to recognise that me and my contemporaries were born unique, but it should be celebrated. I strongly believe that it is our uniqueness as human beings that enables us to make a unique contribution to the world we live in. It is our uniqueness than enables us to contribute to our world in a complementary manner. It is also our uniqueness that has the potential to add maximum value to the world we live in.
The reality is, if any two people are exactly the same, one of us is, in theory, superfluous. If two people are the same, one of them has nothing new to bring to the discussion or the community. Unique is good … isn’t it?
It has always seemed to me that this view of uniqueness is not shared by much of the broader community. While I value and think I have always valued uniqueness, the communities I have lived in and most of the people in them have valued ‘sameness’. Evidence of this lies in both the relentless socialisation process we are all subjected to and the prevalence of popularity awards.
I do not remember May 3, 1957 (the day of my birth) at all well, but I know that the attempts to socialise and normalise me began that day. What is more, it has continued to this day and will continue until I draw my last breath. What is more, I am aware that in terms of the factors driving that socialisation, I remain no different to just about anyone else in my community.
While the emphasis on socialisation and the drivers of it certainly vary by culture, and while some people are clearly more socialised and sensitive to social pressures than others, within any one community the drivers do not appear to vary that much.
From the day we are born, our parents and the other significant people around us try to prepare us for the life we have ahead and a very big part of that involves social norms and socially acceptable behaviours. Before we are born, our parents desperately hope we will be ‘normal’ and after we arrive, they work hard to ensure we are as normal as possible.
Normality is a valued, if not prized, feature of a successful human being. As a society, we value most those people who think, behave, see the world, feel pain, love and value things the way we do. In many cultures, these things impact not just on how we are viewed, but also our family. Judgments are made about how normal we are and how successful our parents were in making us normal.
Because I value uniqueness so much, I despise socialisation just as much. Socialisation is designed to make us more similar, one of the worst things we can be, in my view.
I know I have been socialised, but I also know how much I have always hated it, fighting against its forces and the limitations it creates. I also know that this rejection of socialisation, to the extent that anyone can reject socialisation, lies at the heart of why I am different. It is my fear of socialisation that lies at the heart of my insecurities and it is my dislike of socialisation that has led me to find it so hard to get close to so many people.
Not only am I different to many of those around me, I want to be different and am terrified of ever being similar. This alienates me from many and ensures I am not interested in many others.
Future conversations will focus on my socialisation process and rejection of it, and how my unique experience was at least in part the genesis of my dislike and rejection of socialisation.