How Unique Are You?
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I don’t want to be accused of straining your eyes, so I’m changing typewriters to make the text easier to read. Although I’m not the author of the typewriter story, which has been around for quite some time, I wanted to share it with you. It’s just to make a point about how unique — how special — you are.
Are we really special? Well, let’s use my writing as an example. Although I would like to think it is unique, isn’t it true that if we were to place a chimpanzee in front of a typewriter and have it randomly pound away at the keys, it would eventually type one of my articles? Granted, it may take billions of years to do so by chance, but it proves my writing is not unique. Don’t you agree?
I hope you didn’t agree because if you did, you were wrong. I am about to show that a chimpanzee could NEVER create one of my articles by chance. Are you ready? Hold on to your seat because we have a dizzying ride ahead!
What would be the chances of a chimpanzee typing this sentence??? If you look at the sentence closely, you will find that it is made up of 65 characters and spaces (including the three question marks). So, what are the chances of the chimp typing the first letter of the sentence (capital ‘W’) correctly? The answer is 1 in 50. Why 50? Because there are 26 letters, 10 numerals, punctuation marks, and symbols on the keyboard, totaling 50.
What are the chances of the chimp typing the entire first word (‘What’) correctly? Since he has only a 1 in 50 chance for each of the spaces, the odds would be 1 in 50x50x50x50, or 1 in 50 to the fourth power, which is 1 in 6,250,000. Can you see where this is going? The odds of typing the entire 65-character-long sentence correctly, then, is 1 in 50 to the 65th power.
You have probably guessed that 50 to the 65th power is a B-I-G number. But how B-I-G is it? Well, according to physicist George Gamow, as explained by Guy Murchie in his brilliant book The Seven Mysteries of Life, the number is 1,000 times greater than the total number of vibrations made by all the atoms in the universe! Are you getting the picture? To bring it into sharper focus, realize that atoms vibrate about a quadrillion times a second and there are quintillions of them in a single particle of dust!
No, a chimp could never randomly type one line of this article, much less the entire article. Of course, the object of this exercise is not to discuss my articles and me, but to vividly show how unique each of us is. The things you do and say are your ‘articles.’ They will never be repeated. That’s why the brothers Edmond and Jules Goncourt wrote in their journal on April 15, 1867, “Nothing is repeated, and everything is unparalleled.” You are unparalleled, unmatched, truly unique, very special, and will never be repeated.
Here is an interesting paradox. You are unique only in relation to the rest of humanity. In other words, if nothing existed other than yourself, you would no longer be unique; you would merely be. Our uniqueness arises only when we have others to compare ourselves to. There is a dichotomy to life. On the one hand we are unique; on the other hand, we are just one small piece of the big picture.
Just because we are one drop in the ocean of life, we must never mistakenly believe that we are insignificant. Every drop counts. This point was beautifully expressed by author/artist James Gurney who wrote and illustrated Dinotopia, which appeared on TV as a mini-series. In the fictional land of Dinotopia, the inhabitants live by a code of 12 principles, one of which is: “One Raindrop Raises the Sea.”
I’m sure Mother Teresa never read Dinotopia; but, she believed in the above principle, for she said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
Although we are just drops in an ocean, our roles in life are important. In the following poem, written by an unknown author, God explains how we can make a difference:
“God said, ‘Let’s build a better world,’”
And I said, “How?
“The world is such a cold, dark place,
“and so complicated now,
“and I’m so afraid and helpless,
“there’s nothing I can do!”
But God in all His wisdom said,
“Just build a better YOU!”
St. Francis De Sales taught, “Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” One of the ways we can be that perfectly is to remember that most people hunger for recognition. They try to do their best daily and hurt when they are not recognized. Do we regularly express our thanks to family members, co-workers, friends and others for their help? Why not use our differences to uniquely express our gratitude? They make a difference in our lives, so let’s let them know they are appreciated.
Part of cherishing your own uniqueness is to delight in the diversity of others. We can have an impact on their lives merely by recognizing their right to be different. Like Friedrich Nietzsche, we need to say, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
Yes, we are unique, but so are all the days of our lives and the opportunities they bring. If we look for those opportunities, embrace them, and share them, we will create a better world. That’s why we are so important.
Others Are Important too
What color is an apple? If you said red, yellow, or green, you were thinking of just the surface of the apple and ignored most of it, which is white. Although there are big differences between apples and people, we often think about both in the same way. That is, we too often see only the surface of others. Our view of them is shallow and one-dimensional. No wonder we are not impressed by most of the people we meet. Yet, if we plunge into the depths of those we encounter, we will discover hidden treasures.
Real or fictional people are not only valuable, but are necessary, for their words and deeds instruct us. They reflect our own weaknesses and faults, as well as our own strength and potential. For example, let’s see what we can learn from the characters in this ancient Hindu story.
Lord Krishna ordered a wicked king to search the world for one good person and bring that person before him. After a long search, the wicked king returned and said, “I have looked far and wide. Yet, everyone I met was deceitful, untrustworthy, and selfish. There is not a single good person that I can bring before you.”
Lord Krishna then asked a kind and gentle king to search the world for one wicked person and to bring that person before him. After a long absence, the kind king returned and said, “Lord, I have failed you. Although I could find many that were misguided, misled, or misinformed, none were truly evil. When they act ruthlessly, it is out of ignorance; they are all good at heart.”
See how easy it is to learn from others? I’m sure you weren’t surprised the evil king couldn’t find a good person and the kind king couldn’t find a wicked person. After all, when we explore the world, we see what we ARE. We see what we BELIEVE. And we find what we EXPECT to find. Pierre Mac Orlan understood we find what we look for because he wrote, “When you have a taste for exceptional people, you always end up meeting them everywhere.”
The evil king was blinded by his own prejudices and saw only the surface of others. The good king’s mind was unclouded by preconceptions, so he was able to dive into the hearts of everyone he met and discover their true nature. Yes, there is a great deal we can learn from others. However, learning isn’t enough. We must apply what we learn to benefit from it.
People are treasures. But as long as they are strangers, they are undiscovered treasures. It is only after making friends that we have the chance to open the lid of the treasure chest and discover the glittering gems it contains. Anais Nin writes about the value of friendship: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Although friendship may not be necessary for survival, survival is meaningless without it.
The more friends we have the richer our lives. But, the number of friends we make is limited because of many impediments that block our way. The first roadblock was already mentioned. It is our prejudices, which obscure our vision. So, we need to become aware of our narrow-mindedness and destroy it. Here’s how Victor Hugo makes the same point, “Superstition, bigotry and prejudice, ghosts though they are, cling tenaciously to life; they are shades (shadows) armed with tooth and claw. They must be grappled with unceasingly, for it is a fateful part of human destiny that it is condemned to wage perpetual war against ghosts. A shade is not easily taken by the throat and destroyed.” Yes, destroying our prejudices isn’t easy, but it is a worthwhile and necessary struggle.
Another impediment to friendship is our differences. After all, birds of a kind flock together and those that are different are usually unwelcome. Our differences are like the pits in an apple, minor irritants at first, but they are the seeds of a lasting relationship. For though it is our similarities that unite us, it is our differences that we learn from.
Yet another impediment is self-centeredness or conceit. If we are engrossed in our own imagined magnificence, how can we see the splendor of others? A pompous attitude is hardly a recipe for friendship, for as Francois De La Rochefoucauld wrote, “A person well satisfied with themselves is seldom satisfied with others, and others, rarely are with them.”
Friendships that are won can easily be lost because of misunderstandings and disputes. Being angry with a friend is like burning down your own house to kill a rat. Rebuild damaged relationships with forgiveness and realistic expectations. After all, people are imperfect; and that includes us. If we are to be accepted with all our faults, don’t we owe others the same courtesy?
In this regard, the Greek philosopher Epictetus offers some good advice, “Everything has two handles; the one soft and manageable, the other such as will not endure to be touched. If then your brother do you an injury, do not take it by the hot hard handle, by representing to yourself all the aggravating circumstances of the fact; but look rather on the soft side, and extenuate it as much as is possible, by considering the nearness of the relation, and the long friendship and familiarity between you — obligations to kindness which a single provocation ought not to dissolve. And thus you will take the accident by the manageable handle.”
If we are easily hurt by the insensitive remarks of our friends, imagine how they feel when we do the same. The truth is, we make more enemies by what we say than friends by what we do. We can win a few friends with our mouths, more with our ears, and the most with our hearts. As long as we communicate in a thoughtful and caring way, we will maintain our friendships.
Friendship is to people what sunshine is to flowers. People need nurturing. They need our friendship, so don’t wait for them to be friendly, but show them how. Just as one seed will yield countless apples, one friendship will sprout countless joys. Sir John Bowring instructs us how to become good gardeners:
There is in every human heart
Some not completely barren part,
Where seeds of truth and love might grow,
And flowers of generous virtue flow;
To plant, to watch, to water there,
This be our duty, be our care.
One of the mistakes we make is to forget that everyone we see will die. Because of this lapse of memory, many words and feelings that should be expressed are left unsaid. Don’t save your thoughts for your friend’s eulogy, but express them today. And like Benjamin Disraeli, let’s remember that, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own.”
- Unique Ability: Creating the Life You Want by Catherine Nomura and Julia Waller
- The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past
- By Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura
- Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique by Michael S. Gazzaniga
- The Values Factor: The Secret to Creating an Inspired and Fulfilling Life By Dr. John F. Demartini
- The Breakthrough Experience: A Revolutionary New Approach to Personal Transformation By John F. Demartini
- What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values by Hyrum W. Smith
- You’re Not Special
- Ed McMahon: Where am I? The power of uniqueness
- Julian Baggini: Is there a real you?