I’m struggling to find a unique perspective. I suppose some leniency should be granted since I don’t lead much of a unique life, but I can only work with what I got. Maintaining this blog has helped develop some skills as a writer, but that’s only important if I have something to say.
Maybe it isn’t important to have a unique perspective.
Maybe what’s better is to have an ordinary perspective with a unique voice. To see the same things everyone else is seeing but present them in a different way.
I think there’s great power in speaking truths plainly… though that sounds a little pretentious.
Take comedians for example. The thing that makes a comedian successful is being able to make observations about everyday situations and put them poignantly. A comedian is only funny if you can relate.
If Everyone is Special, Then No One Is
There’s a great scene in The Incredibles (yes the children’s movie) that has really stuck with me. The movie is about a family of super heroes, each with their own unique power. The son, Dash, is brash and headstrong, his super power being amazing speed. (Paraphrasing cause I’m too lazy to google) In the scene, his mother is trying to teach him humility. Talking about his classmates, she remarks, “everyone is special”. To which Dash responds, “That’s just another way of saying no one is”.
Ain’t that the truth.
The world does have special people in it. There are people who easily excel in athletics, academics, politics, ideas, popularity, yada. But there are very few of these people. Odds are, you’re not one of them. I know I’m not, but for a long time I really thought I was. I thought there was some deeply buried internal greatness just waiting to flow out of me. There isn’t.
Special vs Unique
Specialness and uniqueness are two different, but related and often confused, identifiers. Despite the 12th place ribbon you got at your middle school track meet, you probably have some notion that you’re not special. No matter how much we train or try we’ll just never be as good as some people. That’s what makes them special.
To substitute for our inability to be special, we try to be unique. Not even try so much, we just think that by being an individual, we’re automatically unique. I don’t buy it. It’s true that there’s not an exact replica of you floating around, but there are a whole heck of a lot of people just like you.
I’m not trying to act like I’m exempt either. Middle class accountant with a Midwestern upbringing wondering what does it all mean? Dime a dozen. Even my “secret” writer dream isn’t special. How many people dream of writing a book or a blog? How many have done it? Loads. In about two seconds of googling I can find better examples of what I’m trying to do here. Heck I can find better versions of this very post I’m trying to write!
On Being Ordinary
Maybe being ordinary is where the advantage is. Sure, people with unique abilities or perspectives have a lot of interesting things to say. I get it. But they don’t get us. They don’t understand what it’s like for us plebeians toiling.
LeBron James has a pretty good thing going. He can do things basically no one can even dream of. But he can’t relate to 30 million other people… Maybe we need to get over trying to be unique and/or special and appreciate that we are sharing an experience with almost everyone else. That’s kind of cool.
Accepting that I’m an un-special ordinary doesn’t mean I want to just sit on my hands and go through the motions. I still want to escape from what is basically the most boring Sims game ever (my life) and do something. That something isn’t going to be amazing. I’m not about to invent a household product or run for Congress. But maybe I can do something with my ordinariness. Maybe I can use our shared experiences and feelings to develop a voice.
I’m never going to do something HUGE with my life, but maybe something small is up my alley. What if we can impact our lives by doing little things? Since there are so many of us ordinaries, maybe a small idea spread to a large number of people is still meaningful? Maybe, like the comedian, or Dash, we just need to look at things ever so slightly differently.
So what allows people to view the same things as everyone else, but capture their place so effectively?
This is the skill I want. I’m having a very common experience. I’m not especially intelligent or charismatic, I’m just a person, the same as so many others. The plainness of it all, I think, gives great opportunity to draw attention to the obvious truths we all face. Those things we all know and feel and experience but never really consider. You know, our lives.
That’s the challenge. To develop a voice.
My writing is developing, slowly, painfully. But more importantly, ideas need to develop. I want to lead an examined life, but without being a douche about it.
Here’s to hoping…