This I Believe

Courtney - Palatine, Illinois
Entered on May 19, 2007

I believe that when we are children we are the truest and most unique versions of ourselves. We possess an intrinsic “sixth sense” that defines our actions and makes us unique. I believe that growing up is merely a process of losing this sense of self. We lose who we thought we were: the innate “sixth sense” gives way to the power of the other five. Sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste become our sole reality. Our five senses cloud out what were previously simple, black-and-white judgments.

The more we see of the world, the more we lose what we originally set our sights on. The more we hear the evils of the world, the more our own goodness diminishes. The more we smell fear and hate, the more fear and hate permeate our thoughts. The more we touch the wonders of the world, the less we marvel at ourselves. The more we taste bittersweet life, the more our tastebuds become numb to new flavors.

But…this I believe as well… that humans do not live by a sense of self alone. That losing our uniqueness as we age is not a process to be abhorred, but one to be embraced. When we are young we live simply, but we also live selfishly. Few two-year-olds think of the consequences of their temper tantrums. Even fewer toddlers put their mothers’ needs before their own. By growing up, we become conscious of others. We are conscious not only of their judgements upon us, but of their needs. It is through aiding others and fulfilling these needs that we discover an emotion incapable of definition as a child. We begin to define empathy. We put a finger on compassion and gather insight into another’s soul that is otherwise blocked by our selfish “sixth sense”.

By growing up, we forfeit our uniqueness and find a new identity. An identity that thrives in a much larger picture. We are all humans. We all belong to the same phylum, the same class, the same order, and the same family. We are the same species with very few differences between each individual and, consequently, our lives can be defined by “sameness.” When we were young, we were driven by a sense of uniqueness; we were the sole possessors of our parents’ admiration. As we age, we become in tune with our “sameness.” The same basic truths hold firm for everyone. As we grow, our actions become about achieving these truths and helping others reach the same objectives. Being an individual is no longer standing out in a crowd or bettering oneself at the expense of another, it is about modeling empathy.

Those who never grow are those who think that achieving an objective on one’s own is still worth achieving. Those who never grow are those who amplify our petty differences: those who let skin color, or gender, or race alter their behavior. Those who never grow are those who still think that being “unique” is somehow above being the “same”.