Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just Me

I have this perplexing, odd, childish feeling of possessiveness towards those which are obviously not my property (well nothing really is, except for me, however....). For instance, I am possessive about certain places that are dear to me, books that have special meaning to me, authors that I adore, movies that I connect with, sentiments that I strongly believe in, thoughts and ideas that I naively assume to have originated only from me, fields of study I am passionate about, and even some of my “signature” dishes. It’s nice to bond with someone when they share a huge subset of the above, but sometimes, I feel a twang of possessiveness as if someone is encroaching into my identity, and this feels completely immature, irrational, and silly. But this is only with selective people, though. I have dear friends that I am so grateful and thrilled to have around, purely because our interests and wavelengths resonate so harmoniously. But with some others, I am not too excited to squeal, “Me too!”.

Not sure I’m making sense here. But I will plod along and write a little more and see if some clarity appears. I think I have a very personal connection, bond, relationship with thoughts and sentiments that are dear to me. If I love a city, I connect with it so well, it almost becomes who I am. My appreciation for it and interactions with it are deeply personal. But when I come out of this reverie and notice thousands of others who share an identical rapport with the place, my feeling just becomes yet another, and that bothers me. I believe it to be special, and want it to be meaningful, unique, and rising above the rest - and something that only I experience. I understand this sense of possessiveness with objects and people, but with a place, a discipline of study, and an author?! Seems extreme! And the funny thing is, I am not as possessive of people or material objects. Or so I think.

True, a bond or a strong feeling towards something is not devalued in its meaning or significance if it is not unique to me. But it strips something off me by its statement - “it’s not just you”. Shouldn’t it create kinship, camaraderie, knowing I’m not alone? Yes, yes, it mostly does, but for sentiments that are very closely associated with who I am, it doesn’t. Again, it’s only with selective people - I guess those that I don’t expect to have anything in common with me, and those I don’t hold in high regards. It’s jarring to realize - “They are like me?!”, “Then, who am I?!”

But I’ve gotten better at it...at handling this weird form of egoism. It shows up very rarely - these days the sting strikes me when I find that my bonding with my research or particular field of study isn’t unique. And I have to calm myself, before I lose fire and enter into an existential whirlpool.

I don’t think I am being threatened by competition, I am just sorry my relationships aren't totally unique and irreplaceable, and there are a million others just like me. I guess I can understand and empathize with all the cry surrounding intellectual property rights.

My mantra everyday is - You are not unique. You are part of a species. For every thought, idea, sentiment, belief, and feeling, there’s someone in the vast universe who matches yours. Revel in the understanding of this astounding magnitude, for you are just a speck. A speck who will still leave a tiny imprint. Work on creating that imprint. That imprint may not be unique, but it will still be yours.

P.S. - By "imprint", I don't mean genetic imprint :). I am against leaving such imprints to assuage the ego and its sense of immortality, uniqueness, etc.


SecondSight said...

If I empathize perfectly with you on this post, is that a good or bad thing for both of us? ;)

This reminds me of the passage about the rose in the Little Prince, when he comes upon an entire field of them.

I think it helps to remember that you are more than just one thread of your memory or emotions. What makes you unique is the conglomerate of them that is you.
And for each of those "me too" moments, I believe the depth of emotion and the path you took to arrive at it (what makes you love a city so much?) are still unique enough to be noticed :)

Neeraja said...

Doesn't apply to my non-biological sisters like you ;). And of course, you were expected to perfectly empathize :P

Yeah, I am often reminded of the rose, and of Marty the zebra from Madagascar :). Thanks for those reassuring words!

Karthik said...

I get what you mean here, and sometimes feel it myself !:-) I have to agree with SecondSight here when she says - 'What makes you unique is the conglomerate of them that is you'.. Well written post :-)

Neeraja said...

Thanks Karthik! Good to know there are people who can relate to the hazy post :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting Neeraja :) I truly enjoy such posts which let me glimpse into a little more of you :)

Just telling you about myself now, not exactly a response to this post but just sharing my thoughts and feelings...and sorry, poorly organized as well.

I've felt possessiveness about objects is easier to let go than possessiveness about thoughts/personal connections you mention, and that is a little easier to let go than possessiveness in relationships. Its interesting to me that your order is a little different than mine :)

For quite long, I thought possessiveness was not a vice AT ALL, it was just a natural feeling in relationships and very much in its right place, till I understood people around me were struggling because of it. One fine day, I let go, Neeraja, as you said, rightly in the first line of the post, in parentheses... I feel liberated.

The one issue about possessiveness is that it gives you a pretty hard time. And that's why its so important to be rational about things like that which make you feel irrational :)

Yes, you are "A speck who will still leave a tiny imprint"... but you are in fact a colorful and beautiful speck :)

And about uniqueness, just a different thought - Agree 100% with SecondSight's line which Karthik has also quoted.

I feel there's absolutely no question that each one of God's creations is unique :) Thinking this way, I began to love every creation as much as everything else... and then it became immaterial to me what is mine and what is someone else's or what originated in me... or what is special to me. Yes, a hundred times hazier than this post, and cannot be applied to everything and everyone, but I think as years go by, it will be.

Neeraja said...

Thanks Anonymous, on days like this when I embark on a self-absorbed rant, I feel sorry to inflict such posts on the patient reader :). But you are kind.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it makes a lot of sense, not to worry about haziness :). Yeah, the natural order would be people-thoughts-objects, but I'm just messed up! ;) As a matter of fact, in my case, people complain that I am not "possessive" enough of them. I am at the receiving end of their demanding, sometimes stifling, possessiveness. So the bitter treatment sort of turned me away from being so :). But of course, I am no saint, I hold onto other aspects! True, that it brings a lot of negative energy, unsettling thoughts and feelings. It is so liberating to let go... which is why I find it silly that I'd be bothered by someone else sharing my mere thoughts and feelings that I assume give me my sense of originality. A learning experience for me to let go, and accept that as much as I am different, I am equally similar to the billions of people :)

People are mostly unpredictable than unique - I think one's uniqueness is due to their capricious nature, body chemistry etc. :). The reason for this thought is, these days I find too many commonalities between people than differences - and I mean this in a good way. It's nice to see how we all come together, how we share so many similarities in thoughts and feelings. That's how I find everything in Nature too - most differences are perhaps only at the surface. This perspective is helpful too, for it helps me connect with everything/everyone than continuing to see myself as an island...

Although we come from different perspectives, we converge by viewing everything/everyone around as equally valuable :)

Anonymous said...

"self-absorbed rant... inflict such posts..." ... :)) not really :)

"..too many commonalities between people than differences - and I mean this in a good way" - I agree. Happy about this :)

"...viewing everything/everyone around as equally valuable"... Yes, we do converge :)


Srishti said...

Your post reminds me of.. let's see , of course of Ayn Rand's character Dominique (I know u are going to hate that :))
Though I haven't experienced such a a sense of possessiveness (probably because I am more egoistic in thinking that my way of enjoying can never be someone else's) , I can understand it... Sometimes , I am amazed that people can like the same things I like but for entirely different reasons!
Other times , it irks me to see that the great things( in my perspective)are not appreciated/enjoyed as they ought to be. Though this is an entirely different train of thoughts, it all boils down to variations in nature I guess :)
You might have read these lines , but these are the best lines I have read about individuality http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/A_Tale_of_Two_Cities#Chapter_III_-_The_Night_Shadows

Neeraja said...

Ouch! Never imagined I had a touch (or more) of Dominique in me! More motivation to change!! :).
Thanks for sharing that beautiful quote! True, none of us know if our experiences are indeed similarly felt by the other - do you "feel" the same way when you are as happy as I am? You may smile,laugh,jump, dance, but do you "feel" the same way inside? :)

I guess my rant on preserving individuality is also tied to understanding my role in this world - if I have no unique, or new role to play, nothing unique to contribute, then why exist? What is my value-addition? :)