I’m NOT Merely "One of 7,000,000,000"!
That was my reaction when I read a recent article in the Globe and Mail, 7,000,000,000 grains 7,000,000,000 stories. It seems that James Yarker, of the theatre collective Stan’s Cafe had a great deal of trouble visualizing the enormity of the number 7,000,000,000, which is approximately the number of human beings on the earth. I can sympathize with that. Who wouldn’t have trouble with that kind of number? However, Mr. Yarker’s response was to create a huge display of piles of grains of rice, representing the number 7,000,000,000 in its entirety. He used 112 tonnes of rice to do this, then later had to add more because the earth’s population had increased.
So each of us is represented by one of Mr. Yarker’s nondescript little rice grains, buried somewhere in one of his huge piles of rice. While I have no wish to attack Mr. Yarker personally, this expression is an image of the human condition that I consider extremely inaccurate and unfortunate — even destructive. Not to mince words, it is anti-human and anti-art. From what I know of Carl Jung from his writings, I’m sure that he would have pretty much the same reaction.
Throughout his life, Jung was an advocate of the individual, and an opponent of any approach which obliterated the individual by reducing him or her to the merely average or statistical. His point was that no human being is average: each human being is a unique phenomenon.
It can take courage to accept one’s own uniqueness. It can also take courage affirm the value of that each of us as individuals lives or experiences in the face of the overwhelming and seemingly faceless crowd. Nonetheless, it’s essential to remember that no one else can live the life that you or I have been given. It also means that we have to find our own meaning, and our own solutions to the particular things that confront us in our life. We can enlist the help of others, and in fact, we certainly should do so. But when it comes to “crunch time”, we must make the decisions, and live the life that is ours.
I challenge each of my readers to reflect carefully and deeply on his or her individuality and uniqueness. Sometimes it’s tempting and easy to “bathe oneself in the crowd”, as Baudelaire describes it, and so not to take my individual life seriously. But there is nothing so fundamental to us as our own subjective being — nothing of such infinite value.
Can I really look in the mirror? And take in the mystery and the glory that is my own being? One thing is for certain: the one who stares back at me from the mirror is no mere clone or rice grain. Can I make my peace with that one?
Website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga Practice: www.briancollinson.ca
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