A Curmudgeon Rerun: "Not Everyone is Special"
"Not Everyone is Special" first ran on July 31st, 2017.
I don't know when it became so all-fired important to lie to ourselves by stubbornly insisting that we're all equally wonderful in every possible way—gold stars all around—and that no one is more or less of anything than anyone else. Nonsense and foolishness. To deny that some people are particularly beautiful, for example, is idiotic, just as it is to deny that some people are particularly unattractive, or that others are somewhat average looking. Such is the variety of human appearance. And while it's fair to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that tastes are subjective, there is still such a thing as general consensus. Come on now. This is one of those things we all know to be true yet somehow feel obliged to lie about.
It's all part of the idiotic trend of insisting that everything is positive. Mention your own shortcoming around anyone these days, and they're quick to tell you shouldn't put yourself down, as if accurate self-evaluation is some sort of emotional problem in need of immediate attention. What insanity. If someone says he or she doesn't excel at math, the statement is not evidence of low self-esteem, nor insecurity, nor self-doubt, nor a failure to appreciate one's own mathematical brilliance. It is simply an assessment, based on self-knowledge. To say that some are naturally better than others at math is a statement of such obvious fact that it seems silly to even say it. And yet, some do-gooder out there is already objecting: "You can't think that way. You have to be positive." Such people are allergic to the concept of aptitude, and are therefore a drain on the shrinking segment of the population that still thinks. Part of the problem lies in the hopelessly misguided idea that making an observation about a person's assets either objectifies that person or hurts the feelings of others who are not recipients of identical compliments. The possession or lack of certain assets doesn't make anyone more or less valuable. It is simply that people happen to be different from one another. Similarly, it is simply not accurate to say that we're all equally capable at all things. The exceptional athlete isn't average. Not everyone can do what she does. That's why she's exceptional. She's an exception to the average level in her sport.
How are people ever to learn their own strengths and weaknesses when surrounded by such a flood of dishonest input? Isn't "know thyself" a far more valuable life code than "attribute to thyself all desirable qualities and abilities"? Doesn't a grasp of one's general assets and deficits make for a happier life? Don't answer. These are rhetorical questions. Look, the Curmudgeon has no talent for painting. None at all. I could no sooner create a painting worth looking at than I could jump twelve feet in the air and hover there until sundown. This self-knowledge enables me to, on the one hand, greatly admire those who possess such a gift and, on the other, focus on those endeavors to which I'm better suited by virtue of my particular strengths, such as complaining.
Like so many of the words we use, "special" is featured in an exciting book that describes its meaning.
If you turn out not to be special, do not despair. Being average isn't a failure. Average means normal, standard. It is a descriptor for the majority in any category. Average people hold jobs, pay bills, raise families, and can be fine examples of human beings. This is not failure; it's normalcy. Most of us aren't Mensa-level geniuses, or supermodels, or Olympians, or world-class anythings. And even those people aren't great at everything they do. (I'm pretty sure there are supermodels who stink at physics.) And the truth is, most of us don't even achieve a top level at anything. Why not accept what we already know to be true? The majority of us are average and unexceptional, and that's just fine. It enables us to appreciate those who are. (Of course, I don't include myself. Average? I? How dare you!)