The idea that every person is an individual sounds like a myth, mathematically. An estimated 107 billion people have been alive throughout history, an additional 7 billion alive now. Impossible to know how many more will come. Of all those, how many people at this moment are thinking, “I am hungry?”. How many have thought, at one point or another, “I am alone?”.
How terrifying, and at the same time how reassuring, to know that the unique, the singular, cannot exist. Rather, finding similarities with those in close proximity is how communities, nations, families are created. Finding a text that transcends continents, languages, centuries, that expresses the reflection of one soul to another reaffirms the idea that people are, have always been, will always be, simply people.
One view is that individuality is a multitude of binary spheres where someone relates or doesn’t relate to another; “I am the same to this group, I am different to that one”. I am this, not that. However these spheres and structures are not all the same. There exist permutations, sizes, hierarchies. “I am alive, not dead” seems like a clear-cut distinction, but what of “I am both good and bad?”, “Neither rich, nor poor?”. Of those 7 billion-ish people alive today, how many truly get to explore who they are, what they want?
There are a variety of ways in which these domains are defined. Sometimes they overlap or contradict, sometimes they present barriers that don’t allow easy entry. An individual searching for meaning within must be able to ask the questions, “What is this for?”, “Who created this?”, but most of all, “Can it be changed?”
There are liminal spaces between the spheres. This liminality is a place of interest, a sight of conflict, a birthplace to creativity and innovation. This space is often a radical proposition. The idea of an individual who can transform spheres into spectrums and say, “I am from this group, but I am also a little bit like this other one, too.” Or, “I am neither of these, so I’ll take a little from this, and that, and that, and that.”
Finding a middle ground is a joining of hands.
Unfortunately stepping out of a sphere, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, is difficult. The “ground” without is not a ground at all but an ocean; mutable, uneven, insecure. The possibility of failure, in the face of commodities. The threading of water a struggle with the real possibility of no coast ever coming into sight.
Being able to see the spectrum, not the binaries, means recognizing that there is no singular moment of revolution. Instead, every action must be infused with mindfulness and purpose, with the realization that most of these moments are neither terrible nor euphoric. Most of them are menial, repetitive, and seemingly unimportant. Donna Haraway calls this, "staying with the trouble". Being present, as often as possible.
Walking the spectrum instead of residing in the spheres is hard, until it isn't. Until inaction is what becomes unacceptable. Walking the spectrum together provides comfort when the path is difficult.
To “belong”, even in the face of individuality.