I like it when people say “Everyone is unique.” It’s funny because it’s true. But wait, isn’t this a paradox we have here :). I take it that being unique just means that there is a quality or property which applies to just one thing; only one object or person can possibly have such a property if it is truly unique. But somehow, we are saying that being unique isn’t really all that unique, since every individual person has something about them – i.e. a facial feature such as a birthmark – which is unique to them. At the same time that someone is special, that person is also absolutely ordinary. Now how to make sense of it.. Everyone can’t really be unique, can they?
You could say that being unique isn’t just a catch-all term, since there are different ways in which you can stand out. Perhaps there is a physical trait which only you possess, and this distinguishes you from a crowd. However, another person can have an attitude or personality trait which sets them apart. So when these two individuals are put side by side, there is no semblance of a contradiction when someone points out that these two are unique people, given that we’re comparing apples to oranges in attributing uniqueness to them. But is this possibly just a cop out?
Leaving aside the issue of physical uniqueness, I think that there is something deterministic about the whole question. To put it as simply as I can, I think that our selves are definitely faced with a choice, but that choice is irrelevant to whether or not we are unique. This is because, to me, being unique is synonymous with having some underlying ability or knowledge which I and only I have. For example, someone like Christiano Ronaldo’s control in his footwork while dribbling a soccer ball is arguably unmatched by any other player. And Socrates’ epistemic humility was so profound and authentic that we’d say that no one was more able to concern him/herself for knowledge and truth than someone like Socrates. The problem is that neither of these examples really have a choice once they’ve realized these dispositions which drive their whole being, and serve as the foundation of their respective purposes of being a uniquely skilled soccer player or a uniquely humble critical thinker. There is no interfering with these individualized properties. But even if this was false, and there was a case of deviance from these tendencies, then we would hardly give their name any value or credit insofar as it is a representation of a person with any uniqueness. Because uniqueness cannot be helped. Our natural dispositions, supposing that they exist, determine how we express ourselves. It is by this force that we behave, or otherwise we would consciously have tried hiding the things which made us seem alien. But however much we may want to hide our selves, the phenomenon of the subconscious will always inevitably make these apparent. And this is as it should be.
So we are determined to be unique? Is that all? No, because this determination makes it so that we can’t all be unique. The fact is that there is one metaphysical point of origin, or source, which must give reason for us all having a common property of having been determined to be this way; namely, unique individuals. Call it what you will: God, fluctuation of the quantum field, the causal antecedent to experience (which informs our tendencies), what have you. But however you put it, there must be something there which unites all of us in this regard.
I won’t make any further claims about this.
And so if we were somehow clever enough to know what this was, then the paradox would no longer be a paradox. It would be a testable position taken up by science. But I’m just enjoying this show, and to know what’s behind the curtain would spoil the fantasy and mysticism, drawn out from my interpretive block of silly puddy, which compels me to keep thinking, pursuing, dreaming. What would be your reaction if you realized that the Wizard of Oz wasn’t really the bad man that everyone made him out to be? It’d give me a sour taste in my mouth, that’s for sure.
So I just keep on living and reinterpreting the same paradox over and over to see if I can’t stumble upon a better conclusion. It’s always interesting to see how our limitations of knowledge which are manifested in these paradoxes always gently wave on to the beaches of spirituality. At least this is my experience.
I’d be excited to hear yours, too!