If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
But if I am only for myself, who am I?
Hillel the Elder, ca. 30 BCE
Me, The 100 Billionth Person. Can that be true? More to the point, so what if it is?
First, it is at least plausible that I am the 100 billionth person to have lived on this planet, depending on one’s assumptions. In 2010, when I launched and titled this blog, the data at hand suggested that the 100 billionth homo sapiens might have been born in the 1950s. But more recent studies say that humanity had an earlier origin than originally thought; this means more procreation and thus more predecessors of me, maybe billions of them.
We could quibble about numbers, but what matters more in our culture of self-branding is who stakes out the first claim. So I conferred the designation “The 100 Billionth Person” upon myself, Craig H. Collins.
The 100 billionth person. How impressive! One out of… how many zeroes is that? Hmm. Why would the 100 billionth person to have breathed this planet’s air be more special than the billions who preceded and followed?
Let’s talk about special and unique. When I was growing up, I was routinely reminded by my mother, by teachers, by the obvious fact that I was younger and less mature than my classmates, that I was special. My parents rarely missed a chance to brag to their friends about me, as if I had arrived from Krypton and had otherworldly intelligence. While I did get good grades, I sucked at football and basketball, which set me apart from other kids. Special and unique? Maybe, but different and often disparaged.
For a long while, I drank the “specialness” Kool-Aid. I grew up to meet countless people with abilities and ambitions far exceeding my own, but it somehow didn’t shake my aura. College mid-term exam? I’ll do fine, I don’t need to study that hard. Income tax returns? I can make a spreadsheet and do them myself. Corporate leadership workshops? None of that social engineering crap for me! And why should I study the masters to improve my art and photography? It would only contaminate the way I see the world!
I had a little shrine to myself imbedded in me, where self-absorbed questions were posed: How can I get the recognition I deserve? On what activities should I spend my precious time and energy? What a waste it would be to fritter myself away — after all, I am special!
But I grew older and found I couldn’t (and didn’t care to) live up to my self-inflated image. How unspecial I am really hit home after I ended my career, moved to the south and tried to start over. I surprised myself how unprepared I was for this phase of my life, where I couldn’t get by on looks alone.*
The 100 Billionth Person is obviously an irony. Being The 100 Billionth Person sounds special and distinctive — but as one of so many, how can I be anything but ordinary and insignificant? Yes, each of us is unique in that no one shares our DNA, our experiences, our thoughts, our actions. But if we are all unique, how special can that be?
• • •
Now to this blog. A person who decides to write a blog — and hopes others might read it — must think he has something unique to say. While I try to avoid self-importance, this blog necessarily represents the way I view the world — there is no other point of view I could possibly have. For your entertainment and mine, I strive to be myself, offering something unique and hopefully interesting and fun.
I am just one person in humanity’s queue, aware of my place in the line, clueless what the line is for. Thanks for joining me.
If there’s one piece of reading advice I would give, it is to take your time.
P.S. Those expecting the usual biographical info here may be disappointed. I don’t want to make it easier for identity thieves than it already is. Who I am is reflected in my posts — who I am not is some other Craig H. Collins you may have been looking for. If you arrived here by chance, you need not be sorry.