There is a popular saying-game, especially from know-it-alls that enjoy one- liners. It goes like this:
“There are only two kinds of people in the world … ” fill in whatever you heard someone state most recently. It is probably a nice feeling to categorize the whole world’s population, and have some kind of sense that it is easy to pin everybody into two massive pigeonholes. I should know. I played the game myself. Just for fun, let’s try it out.
“There are only two kinds of people in the world, those who want nothing but to be normal, and those that want nothing but to be special.” Or how about this? “There are only two kinds of people in the world, those that are desperately trying to fit in, and those that are desperately trying to stand out.”
I think that the need to fit in is deeply rooted in our cores. We are, after all, pack animals, created for cooperation, totally dependent on each other. The fear of being thrown out of the pack is a real fear, insofar that not being part of a group can be a direct threat to our physical survival and our overall well being. I also think – reflected in myths all over the world – that the need to stand out, to be our own, to go on the hero quest and be the savior of all, is just as deeply rooted. We are basically made to evolve beyond mere everyday business.
The fear of being different, and the need to be special, is not exclusive to people moving in areas that we sometimes refer to as alternative. But working with personal spirituality, trying to be part of creating a future-society built on more sound values, can certainly make these questions more visible. How many of our readers, as well as my spiritual friends and acquaintances, haven’t I heard over the years struggling with this issue? It’s easy to fall into loneliness, and worse, it is very tempting to fall into vanity, letting the “special,” translate into “better than.”
There’s a movie I like, since I tend to like most movies that have a mystical twist, called The Devil’s Advocate. The setup is simple. Young, upcoming, but small-town lawyer finds himself in a moral dilemma in the courtroom. He knows the man he’s representing is guilty of an awful crime, and has evidence to prove it. Will the lawyer continue to represent his client, or renounce the case? The lawyer makes the less moral choice, and suddenly his life takes of. He’s offered a position i a big-time law firm, with all the luxury and power going with it that you can think off. The man he’s working for turns out to be the Devil, brilliantly played by Al Pacino. If the young lawyer only gives the Devil his soul, he can have all he ever dreamed of. In the end, the man chooses to leave, finds himself magically back in the courtroom where he strayed off, and can make the right choice. He officially declares he cannot defend the man he knows is guilty. The courtroom goes wild. A lawyer with a conscience!? Outside the courtroom he’s approached by a journalist, who wants to feature this unique and heroic man. The lawyer accepts. The journalist turns to the camera, transforms into the Devil and says, “Vanity, my favorite sin.”
We do not have to claim that we are enlightened, or better, just because we choose a path which feels right to us. Of course there is a price to setting ourselves apart. But there are prices to everything. If we do not choose to be who we came to be, we might, for example, lose our souls.
There are only 7.5 billion kinds of people on the earth. Each unique, different from the rest, and at the same time each one of us shares similar struggles, joys and victories.
This piece was first published as the Editorial of May issue 2017 of The Echo World