Say what? Are you nuts? Doesn't everyone want to be someone special?
Have you wondered why little children like dinosaurs or superheroes?
As children, we feel small and insignificant, and therefore wish to be big, powerful and special. It feels good when we are treated as special.
When I was a child, my mother was frustrated with me for not standing out. I was so upset by this, I spent most of my life striving to show myself that I am special. I wanted to get the highest degree, have a respectable career, achieve many things, be charming, be cool, be funny, be in great physical shape, be extraordinary in my profession and on and on.
Maybe the fear of being Ordinary can motivate a person to accomplish many things, but it can also trap a person into chasing an illusion with much disappointment and suffering.
I have been enjoying going to Joshua Tree recently. The night sky is magnificent without light pollution. I can see the sky loaded with stars and wonder at the vastness of the Universe. There are thirty sextillion stars. That's 3 follow by 22 zeroes. There are more stars than grains of sand on all the beaches in the world. Many of those stars contain modes of 'dust' we call planets. If the whole human race ceased to exist today, nothing would change in the Universe.
I know, I know, you might think I am being cynical or negative, trying to make people depressed. Keep reading, I am actually doing the opposite.
When we cling to our desire to be special, we can fall into traps of valuing oneself over others, competing and comparing, and feeling entitled to rewards from the Universe. As much as we pretend to be above them, these tendencies are natural and rooted in our evolution. But they can be exhausting. We only feel special when we feel big; the CEO of a company, the superhero who saves lives, the morally superior person who only does good things, the spiritual guru who gives up everything, and many more forms of being special. Yet, the Universe does not work for any particular person, no matter how big and special you think you are. It is indifferent to what you and I desire. Can you imagine being worthy of love for being small? For just being Ordinary?
Philosopher Edmund Burke made a distinction between The Beautiful vs The Sublime. We are all familiar with The Beautiful when we find someone or something amazing, stunning, and very pleasant to look at. The Sublime is different. It is an experience of awe. It can overwhelm the person and might even make the perceiver feel small and insignificant at the moment. But it is opposite from pain because that person's ego is dissolved in something that is Sublime. It is almost a feeling of worship. We surrender our ego willingly by connecting with something greater. That sense of vulnerability is rewarded by a sense of ecstasy. This is the reason Nature can be so healing for us. The sense of insignificance allows us to feel embraced by the deep joy of The Sublime.
Back in Joshua Tree, I might have felt depressed and despaired about being small and insignificant compared myself to the majestic vastness of the Universe. But in the state of awe and worship, I felt a state of Wonder.
Understanding you are not special allows you to realize that it is the choices you make when you face your everyday struggles, conflicts, and pain that define who you are, not what is entitled to you. With that humility, you will understand the trade-offs, the cost of giving up something to achieve the things you desire. When we believe we are special, we do not want to trade, and do not want to pay the price for what we want.
Knowing I am no more special than others allows me the humility to get feedback from others. Last week when people told me I am not a good listener, it was much easier to digest that feedback. But if I held the belief that I am special, it would have hurt a whole lot worse. Who I am is not defined by how special I am, but by how much I accept reality as what it is and the struggles of my everyday life to provide me with meaning.