You cannot be alone truly if you have support. Life might appear to push us away, to insist upon our suffering, but we do not have to oblige it, we can fight it. The task is clearly not an easy one, it is like throwing a foreigner into Paris and expecting her to find her way around, and demanding she act like a local. She knows no French, we can assume from her being a foreigner, and as such she likely doesn’t know enough about Paris to act as though she is simply a local. To expect this of her is absurd. And so too is the expectation that we ourselves can go through life alone, or that we ought to suffer internally on top of that which the universe dispenses out. Why go it alone where there is no demand to? Why suffer at the hands of the world and at the hands of ourselves when we could just simply stop hurting ourselves, remove half of the pain. We wander into the trap of expecting grandeur of ourselves, we compare ourselves to others – alive or dead – and ask “why can I not do what they can do?” But in this question too we forget something, two things in fact I feel.
For one, we forget that we are not in fact the person we are comparing ourselves to and so there really is no reason, no grounds, to even consider the comparison. How can I say that my writing is no good because I am not writing like Neil Gaiman? How can I compare myself and all my uniqueness and subjectivity to another equally unique and subjective person? Simply put, it would seem I cannot. This is a first step to self-knowledge, acknowledging that I am me, you are you, and we are separate. We wouldn’t compare ourselves to a tree and ask “why can I not be that tall,” or to a dolphin and ask “why can I not swim that fast.” While I am human, and so is Neil, that does not allow for us to suddenly begin comparing my being to his. In other words, I exist in my own independent ways, and I ought to compare my own achievements to the way I existed independent of others. (Keep in mind this is in reference to the self. Our actions do not independently exist outside the bounds of others, and their effects are certainly felt by others, this is half the reason we act. But I don’t want to discuss this right now, I have another little essay on thoughts that addresses this more that I have no problem putting up if anyone is interested).
The second question we all fail to ask ourselves (or maybe we do but do not think too deeply into the answer) is “what can I do that they cannot?” The answer to this doesn’t need to be a big or ‘meaningful’ one, something that seems to shine a golden spotlight of success upon ourselves. The truth of these ‘golden attributes’ is that ultimately, nearly nobody thinks of themselves in such lights. For example, we might easily say that Shakespeare was one of the best playwrights to ever live, or something as such. Our worry might be “why can I not write sonnets like Shakespeare, he is such a master!” I think it important to realize that at the time, it is unlikely Shakespeare thought of himself as the master of the sonnet, this attribute is something that we gave to him. In another way, it is unlikely that an award winning actor wakes up every day and tells themselves, without reserve, that they are the best to ever live. Those of us who love that actor might claim it, but only we make it true by saying this of them. Think of it, if I were to claim to you that I am the greatest writer to publish on this site, you would scoff and question my motives, or on what basis I claim this. It cannot be true because I attribute it to myself. Our ‘golden attributes’ are those which we are given based upon our actions, we cannot claim them before acting.
So when we ask ourselves “what can I do that so-and-so cannot,” think to your uniqueness. For instance, I love my mother with all of my heart, and while I am sure most of you love your mothers as well, there is a uniqueness to each of our loves. For one, we each love a different person we call ‘mother’ (unless we’re somehow related! In which case, my dear long-lost sibling, email me right away we need to catch up). And even if you claim love to a mother you share with a sibling, your love is radically different from theirs. I show my own love by writing stories where a character represents my own mother, or by finding flowers I know she’ll love, or by giving movies that I know will make her smile. You no doubt have your own quirks of showering your mother with love. This is unique to you. No one else can do it like you because no one else is you. Not even Shakespeare. Or perhaps we could say that I can edit papers superbly while on the toilet. I’m sure there’s others out there who are able to do their best editing while on their porcelain throne, but there is still uniqueness (I leave it to you to think on what these might be). And Finally, in a philosophical twist, you might realize that you get to live your life however you choose, you are free to be you. No one else can do that. They all get to be themselves, only you get to be you. How amazing that is to realize, that while you will never be Ryan Gosling, or Ellen Degeneres, or Jean-Paul Sartre, or Angela Merkel, they too can never be you.