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Posts Tagged ‘special’

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I’m going to write more about why Being Special isn’t a competition. I’ve explored more on how each moment is special, and this leads into how each experience is special.

Yesterday, I wrote about using mindfulness to break out of the habits of a dreary routine. This is about more than just escaping a boring rut. It’s about turning your eyes away from that rut, and toward the opportunities to experience that routine in a new way.

We are a collection not just of our experiences, but also of how we perceive them. The same people can come from roughly the same situation, yet come away with entirely different perspectives. Same teacher, different lessons. Why is this?

More importantly, how can we use this knowledge to make better use of the experiences we face?

In each day, we are faced with many moments we can experience as fun, boring, unpleasant, exciting, forgettable… so many ways. In each of these moments, we have the opportunity to try to experience them in a new way. Even if we can’t quite turn a boring moment fun, or a painful moment into pleasure, we can experiment with finding another side to it we’d otherwise miss. As we do so, we’ll learn something valuable about ourselves, and also hone our skills of living.

A skillful life involves building greater understanding and influence in how we experience it, and how we grow with those experiences. Each moment presents a new opportunity to improve these skills, in its unique way. By practicing finding what makes that moment Special, we prepare ourselves for the kind of life we hadn’t before imagined.

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People tend to assume that for something to be Special, it must be Bigger Than, Better Than, Greater Than… or any other kind of superlative that makes it extraordinarily exceptional.

But that’s only one kind of Special. The first definition of Special at Dictionary.com says:

  1. of a distinct or particular kind or character

That is, something that has a distinct character, particular to itself. It doesn’t have to be Bigger, Better, or any other kind of superlative. There’s no competition that can declare who or what is Special. Rather, it takes mindfulness to find what is Special in all that surrounds us.

In this way, each moment is Special: it carries lessons and sensations unique in itself, which we can take advantage of only if we stop to appreciate what the moment brings

Each experience is Special: it carries challenges and pleasures in good ways and bad, and we can best learn from them only if we recognize it for the opportunity it is.

Each person is Special: we each contain our own blend of experiences and perspectives, which we can share in only if we stop to appreciate what each of us have to offer.

As I get back into my daily routines this week, I’m going to try to remain mindful of the Special nature of what I encounter and experience. I’m interested to see how it helps me better identify the opportunities before me, and make greater use of them as I start this year.

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In one of my favorite movies, The Incredibles, there’s the following exchange between a kid who can run superheroically fast, and his super-powered mom:

Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

To me, that’s always been a perfect two-part summation of how, culturally, we can help keep each other down.  For the first part, there’s a strong pressure to “fit in”, and not make waves.  Sure, we talk about how everybody should strive to be the best there is, but once someone starts hitting that inspirational high, we then start trying to tear them down.  Part of it might be jealousy, and part of it might be lashing out in the internal fear that we could never be allowed to reach our own heights.

There also seems to be a cultural impulse to attack people who stand out with the accusation that they’re doing something arrogant and selfish for contradicting the way “everybody” expects a person to think and act.  It’s like there’s a strong resistance to anything disrupting the comfort zone of the “status quo”, sort of like how people say that in America you can have all the Free Speech you want so long as your speech won’t matter.  It’s standing out to make a difference that inspires other people to start embracing their own specialness, that’s where you start to get into trouble.

And that leads into the second part.  Everybody truly is special.  The problem is that for too many people, “special” is some kind of competition where only the winners qualify.  It’s as though “special” has to mean “significantly better than almost everybody else at something rare or spectacular”, and that you have to be the right kind of “special” to get that supreme validation as a uniquely valuable person.  That is so completely backwards.

Special means, essentially, “pertaining or peculiar to a particular person/thing, distinctive, unique”.  And that’s you.  That is absolutely, completely you.  You are a genuinely unique assembly of hopes and fears and skills and doubts and loves and dislikes and pleasures and pains.  Your world may have a lot in common with a lot of people, but only you have exactly your way of being in it.  You are special.  And this matters.

Naturally, this gets challenged.  People scoff, “Well if everybody’s equal, then how can you say that each person is so specially important?  Doesn’t that mean none of us matter?”

This makes me think of some truly beautifully intricate puzzles I’ve seen, where each piece is actually made up of smaller complete pictures.  It’s the combination of the arrangements of the tiny sets of pictures that shows the larger picture on the puzzle when you step back.  Can you picture what I’m talking about?  Now imagine if even one of the pieces was missing.  Is the puzzle still complete, or did that piece matter?

I’ll talk more tomorrow about just how much it matters.

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