If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Hillel the Elder, ca. 30 BCE
Me, The 100 Billionth Person. Can that be true? And so what if it is?
First, it is plausible I am the 100 billionth person to have lived on this planet (see link). But what matters more in this culture of self-promotion is that no one else has made the same claim. So, I here confer the designation “The 100 Billionth Person” upon myself, Craig Collins.
The 100 billionth person. How impressive! One out of… how many zeroes is that? Hmm. Why should the 100 billionth person to have walked the earth be more special than the billions who preceded and followed?
Let’s talk about special and unique. As I was growing up, I was constantly reminded by my mother, by my teachers, by the fact that I was a year younger than my classmates, that I was special. My parents rarely missed a chance to brag to their friends about me, as if I were from another planet and had otherworldly intelligence. While I did start reading earlier than my classmates and I did get good grades, it meant I was set apart from other kids. Special and unique? Maybe, but different and often disparaged.
For a good while, I drank the Kool-Aid. I grew up to meet countless people with abilities and ambitions far exceeding my own but it did not shake my aura of specialness. 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 outings? None of that social engineering crap for me! Improve my art and photography by studying the masters? Why should I contaminate the way I see the world?
For a long time, there was 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!
Eventually I found I couldn’t (and did not care to) live up to my self-inflated image. How unspecial I am really hit home after I ended my career, moved 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?
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Now to this blog. A person who decides to write a blog — and hopes others might read it — must think he has something important to say. (I hate the word important.) While I try to avoid self-importance, this blog necessarily represents the way I view the world: what other point of view could I possibly have? For your entertainment, I strive to be myself, unique but not special, hopefully interesting and fun. I am just one person in the queue, aware of my place in the line, clueless what the line is for. Thanks for joining me.
P.S. Those expecting to find the usual biographical info here may be disappointed. I don’t want to make it any easier for personal data aggregators than it already is. Who I am is reflected in my posts, so please read them. 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.