Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Against Uniqueness

Against Uniqueness

          What does it mean, to be unique? To be the best, the exception, the only? It seems a positive thing somehow, but really it has a lot of negativity built in.
          To be unique is to have a certain description – that indeed is the positive part of uniqueness, especially if the description is flattering; but to be unique also means that nothing else has that same description. Nothing else whatsoever is like the unique; hence there is negativity within uniqueness.
          Were a lover to say, “I love my friends and relatives and many others, including you,” well, the one wooed might find his ardor limited, but soothing; but were he to say, “I love only you,” well how thrilling, but stressful. The lover of many needs keeping an eye on; but the lover of only-one is needy, clingy, and potentially dangerous.

          Once I was walking through Harvard Square when someone ran up to me, calling another man’s name. It turned out that there was another mathematician there, one who looked like me, at least from behind. I found this revelation reassuring; if I’m part of a type, then we must be on to something.
           I felt the same sense of collective security when I noticed that raccoons have hands. Evidently hands are a good idea; someone else seconded the motion. If we were the only animals with hands, then I might doubt the soundness of the concept; but as is, if there’s something that we ought to do with these hands, but we fail, then there’s a back-up team, to do it in our place. How reassuring!
          Uniqueness is the enemy of positivity just as the best is the enemy of the good. The unique is the least positive of the positives; for irreplacibility equals insecurity. Uneasy rests the One, for fear that there might be another One.

          All could be good but only a few can be best; therefore the good are a better bet than the best.

          I therefore recommend that we all renounce uniqueness. Never sell your soul, not for a treasure, nor for a penny; instead give it away for free.

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