This morning's emailed request from Red Room for everyone to blog about "being different" prompted a vision of thousands of loyal bloggers engaged in a synchronized demonstration of their individual uniqueness, and this vision has, naturally, inspired a few thoughts on how little difference there is between us. Consider, for instance, that you and I both share about sixty percent of our DNA with a common turnip (which actually comes as no surprise to me, since I usually waken with both the motivation and enthusiasm of a turnip) and we share about 96% of our DNA with a chimpanzee. Any chimpanzee. Which again comes as no surprise to me because . . . well, never mind. The point is that, physically at least, there are no important differences from one human to another. Only trivial distinctions like skin color, sex, and political affiliation separate thee from me.
That last one, though, might bear closer examination. Setting recent neurological revelations to the effect that the liberal-conservative schism is at least partially determined by deep brain structure aside, and who doesn't want to set them aside?, political affiliation is one aspect of what we all cherish as the wellspring of our unique individuality -- our minds. Whoa! If we all cherish the same wellspring of our unique individuality . . . lets set that aside too, for the moment. The point here is that in our minds, we are as different as . . . as . . . okay, how different are we? We all want love and respect and significance and we all enjoy food and wine and sex and afternoon naps and the rest of the good stuff, so where do the differences start? It's got nothing to do with DNA and the other externalities, so it has to be internal, right? But the problem is that our internalities aren't connected with each other. You have to take it on faith that, when you look at me after one of my more brilliant observations and wonder, "Is there anyone home in there?," eventually the answer will be yes. But unless you are a closet telepath, you'll have to take that yes on faith, too, and eventually you will become so dizzy from chasing your own solipsistic tail that you will, just like everyone else, fall back in desperation on that reliable old gedankenexperiment. Suppose, you will ask yourself, suppose there really isn't anyone there? Suppose these things walking around me, insisting that I take out the trash and dress appropriately at cocktail parties, are really just mannikins. Robots. Empty forms. What if I really am the only I? What then?
At that point, several conclusions become obvious. First, if this is true, then I really must be wonderfully, uniquely individual. Almost uniquely unique, in fact, and that is about as different as you can get. And the second conclusion is, wow, someone or something must have a really twisted sense of humor! But since the presumption was that no other mind exists, and this requires that some other mind exists, then the presumption must be wrong, and all you people out there really are out there, which leaves me pretty happy because I was beginning to wonder what was so hot about being different, anyway. The only downside I can see at the moment is that I have to go back to taking out the trash and dressing appropriately at cocktail parties. Which kind of sucks.