Sunday, July 22, 2007

Specialness #5: What is Special?

How does one determine what is special? I mean, not in an individual sense, but in the sense of an objective, dispassionate, common-to-all list of 'specialnesses'; what things are the most 'special'-among-specials among all human beings? what is intrinsically special to all human beings at large.

The problem in coming up with such a list is: There are so many individual variables entering into each of our decisions about what we consider special, such as: some people believe in God; some don't; therefore 'special' for the believers leans toward non-material things and the non-believers believe in the supremacy of material things: in fact, the non-believers generally don't even believe in the existence of the non-material!

There are some people who are not even aware of all the 'special' things available in life; they don't even have a clue (although TV and the computer is quickly eradicating all such knowledge/access distinctions). Others can't afford anything 'special' even if they know of it; they can barely afford to eat; the only thing special to them is to day. Economic level invariably affects how we choose what is special to us. People tend to ratchet down their expectations of specialness to what they can afford. After all, if you believe things are hopeless, why hope?.

Perhaps the best way of coming up with a list of 'most-special-things-among-specials-things' is just that: base it on economics, the great leveller. What do rich people--those who can anything they want--consider special; people who can afford to purchase anything in life, who live beyond by contamination of practicality...the people who say: I can live anywhere, so where do I choose to live? I don't have to live in a certain place because I don't have to be near work...etc.

What are the things that the wealthy, those who can have anything they want in the world, surround themselves with? What do the people with all the choices choose?

First of all, they like peace and quiet; space, interior (square footage) and exterior (acreage). And when they do trade off exterior acreage, as when they choose to live in a city, there is always as compensatory and definite request for culture, the arts. That's why New York is so appealing to a certain segment of the wealthy. They want, in exchange for space, the proximate availability of opera, dance and theater. Art must be special.

Health is also important to the wealthy. That's why they go to the best doctors. They also want nice weather. Education. Cleanliness. Travel. Beauty, aesthetics; they are particular demands of the wealthy.

They also want to be around people who treat each other decently; with respect. That's why they go to the best hotels where the workers smile at them all the time. They seek good tasting, nutritious food; quality drink; both served to them with a smile and efficiency.

They seek work, but only of a special kind. Work is rarely 'special' in and of itself...unless it has the 'specialness' of meaningfulness (contribution to humanity)...or the specialness of competitive conquest: winners feel exceedingly 'special'.

(One thing the wealthy don't especially seek is more God.)

However...the rest of us, those of us who have few of the above special things, who have little space, or health, or culture, who are uneducated (relative to our intellectual possibilities), who work for money but not with any significance beyond the paycheck, who eat quantitatively but not qualitatively, without service, who eat at at fast-food restaurants, travel limited, are not living in way that make us feel 'special', are really not content.

We only live without those special things--with a smile--because we must. Point in case: the minute one of us acquires wealth--and the choices inherent in it--we seek space, health, beauty, cleanliness, etc...all the 'specialness' options available to the wealthy.

So to determine what is really 'special' to human existence, we must look to the wealthy. The wealthy's list of special acquisitions is an objective, universal, fundamental list of 'special items' and special desires.

While the rest of us may appear (or play at feeling) 'special' when we live without those things, we're really not feeling 'special'. We may wear designer 'clones', we may grow gardens in window boxes, attend our children's ghetto school graduations and cheer; chant "blessed are the poor; for they shall attain the Kingdom of Heaven..."; but its all bullshit.

We are making do; holding our heads up. After all, we have pride. (Perhaps pride is the most 'special' of all human specialnesses!)

To conclude: a warning to the wealthy: the rest of us living off our own bullshit can only last so long. It may be ours, but it is not nutritious. So while you have properly set the standard/definition of 'specialness' by your choices, the rest are eager (pressing and impatient) to follow. Beware of revolution. (Or worse, voting largely Democratic...bringing the labor mvement back from the dead!)


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