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Saturday, June 25, 2005 

Why can’t I be you?

They say variety is the spice of life. You get yummy spices like visiting different places, meeting different people, exploring new horizons and you get not-so-pleasant spices like bigotry, segregation, sectarianism, fear, hatred and so on. In my dandy youth I was all into being different, dressing different, listening to different music, doing different things. My friends were all on that wavelength. We were the cats sitting in school making sheep noises at the conformists, acting like they are beneath us because we were different and different was better.

Later I realized we really weren’t different, that we had more similarities than differences. It’s a funny thing about outcasts, especially those that stress individuality like we did; often those are the most exclusive cliques and subcultures you will find. To join up you have to be different; and the moment you try to be different, that isn’t any different than trying to be the same. If trying to be different is just like trying to be the same, is there any individuality?

I’ve long had an arm-chair interest in Buddhism and Hinduism and similar eastern religions and philosophies. But for a long time I was vexed by the idea that “successful” practice of such religions was (in simple terms) to have the self swallowed up and become one with the universe, all of that individuality lost in the attainment of enlightenment. This is very similar to the scripture mentioned by Carrie Ann, from somewhere in the New Testament, “He who seeketh his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life, for My sake, shall find it.”

It’s been difficult for me to accept the loss of “me.” I grew up hearing that unique is good, that uniqueness has worth; uniqueness and individuality get stressed to the point that one can base all of their self-worth on individuality. Those differences, that stuff that makes me me, it’s mine, it’s me, but does it really matter? Our worth doesn’t come from our individuality. Our worth doesn’t come from anywhere, it just Is. If that wasn’t the case, I’d still be in a terrible state after encountering people I found to be better versions of myself; similar looks, interests and attitudes, but more motivated, smarter, kinder, more fit, etc. etc. Better than me at being me. Scary.

For some time now, I’ve been coming to the conclusion that individuality doesn’t matter, that it is a red herring in the search for happiness or salvation or whatever. To me, much of Mormonism works to strip away individuality. We have the same baptism, we dress the same (well the boys dress the same. You don’t have to step back very far before the general authorities turn into attack of the clones. Girls, lucky ducks, have a lot more leeway.) And the temple, I’ve often thought, looking around at others in the temple, that the temple is the great equalizer, everyone exalted to the same level, everyone the same.

But religion is about the only thing I have in common with most of the members of my ward. Just a couple of days ago VL was remarking that beyond religion, she just doesn’t have much in common with the other ladies at church, just isn’t interested in the conversations, the social events. I’m the same way. We gravitate to people like us, people who like the similar things and so have experienced similar things and most of those people usually are not members of the church. Be the same, be different, I don’t know that it matters. Just Be.

I appreciate what you said about individuality being a "red herring." While I champion the individual and like to think that HF loves us individually, I secretly think that individuality is slightly overrated, or overblown at the very least.

As a side not of personal irritation: I have always rolled my eyes at people who say, "I can't help it...it's the way I am!" That's a load of bunk. Individuality is NOT about reveling in our idiosynctacies and bad habits or traits.

I LOVE your perspective on this topic. You are a gem!

I think this post came off more one-sided than I intended. I agree with a fair amount of what's been said this week but after each post I thought, "Oh no, I can't write about that now!" The Saturday slot is tough, how did you do it so well?

I feel there is great joy in acknowledging and celebrating diversity and individuality. I believe that when Heavenly Father says to lose ourselves he means that we should lose the inclination to always put our needs and desires first, to always try and save ourselves no matter how it effects those around us. I
believe that one way we can best help others is by being true to who we really are and the uniqueness of our experience. Heavenly Father gave all of us different circumstances and different strengths and weaknesses for a reason. I agree that often in our immaturity we try to be different just to be different, to feel superior. But as we mature I think our differences can be used to help others and contribute unique perspective to our family, church and community. These are just a few of my thoughts on this whole subject.

One time I think God told me He needed me to be me because I have something to give that my Molly Mormon neighbor can't do. I can't explain it, but I took it to heart.

You do a great job because you speak your own mind from your own perspective. No topic is ever fully covered by Saturday!


I love your addition to this blog for so many reasons... the least of which is that you title your post a name of a Cure song. :)

Just be.

I love it.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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