“For millions of years flowers have been producing thorns. For millions of years sheep have been eating them all the same. And it’s not serious, trying to understand why flowers go to such trouble to produce thorns that are good for nothing? It’s not important, the war between the sheep and the flowers? It’s no more serious and more important than the numbers that fat red gentleman is adding up?”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
On a macro-biological level we humans are a pretentious, egocentric bunch. There’s no better evidence for this than in our daily striving to be unique. To think that thousands of years of toil and struggle have brought us to the point of engineering whole systems of communication and behavior the sole purposes of which are to make us “feel” unique. Hairstyles, aftermarket car parts, eclectic music genres, makeup, tattoos, clothing, and let’s not even mention the dreaded/beloved social media outlets that placate our urge to express ourselves idiosyncratically all day, every day. Think of all those moments when you’ve watched someone stumble in stupidity and you’ve found yourself uttering those ever-so-famous last words, “Why would they do something like that?” As if you’ve never found yourself in a situation that, through your own actions, beg descriptions such as “dullard.” Everyone seems to spend large amounts of time, not just trying to distinguish themselves from the rest of the lot, but in active searches for experiences, both tactile and abstract, that are by themselves unique.
The beautiful irony in this is that we all have and act on this unusual behavioral trait. The hysterical fact of the matter is that the things that do make us truly unique are also the ones that we tend to take for granted all the time (this is unless you’re a career criminal on a bad luck streak). The ridges and valleys that curve their way along the skin on your fingers and toes are just one example. Your retina is another. Your DNA is another. There is a singular paradox in the fact that we all work so hard to stand out from the crowd, but we don’t actually have to try at all.