We are all incredibly unique beings.
A fan of contemplating paradox, I understand our uniqueness to be the most important thing we have in common. It’s something we all own and experience from an individual standpoint, yet it’s the essence of what makes us similar—what helps us to understand one another and catch glimpses of familiarity in a sea of marked differences.
That being said, we have more in common with one another than we probably realize.
However, our common uniqueness typically shuffles us into labeled categories of archetypal beings, compartmentalizing different facets of our lives as a means of organization. We identify with certain groups and we let this inform our beliefs about ourselves and the corresponding actions we take to live in line with that definition.
We believe that if we fall under a certain title, the necessities for living a good life will be outlined for us in a crystal clear list of things to do because of who we are, e.g. “the introvert’s guide to survival” or “how to not be depressed” or “I’m too sensitive and sometimes that sucks.” Sure, these compilations are helpful for those who relate to their content, often giving a boost of solace to remind us that we are never alone. And that’s important to feed our sense of belonging, to offer sources of connection between us.
But what if we could ditch the usual labels and categories and paint a more inclusive picture of who we are as we share in our individuality?
Believe it or not, there are things with which we all can identify, even if some of us are slower to admit it than others. There are some things we all need, regardless of the tiny umbrellas under which we choose to stand at any given moment.
It doesn’t matter our gender, our race, our religion, our personality or our circumstances. It doesn’t even matter where we are in the world or what we do for a living; these are things we all need, whoever we are:
Yes, food. The thing we eat. Of course this implies a literal interpretation in that we need to feed our physical bodies in order to survive, and it’s certainly beneficial to fuel them with the miraculous nutrients with which we have been blessed on this beautiful planet. But of course, we exist as more than just physical beings, and so we require nourishment by more than just physical means.
We need to feed our minds and spirits just as much as we feed our bodies. In the same way we benefit from ensuring that we consume healthy, nutrient-dense and revitalizing foods, the people we are beneath the surface can thrive and reach their fullest potential if they are properly nourished by interactions, inspirations and other environmental components.
In this sense, food goes far beyond what sits on our plates, and we all need it. While it certainly includes this edible definition, it also includes the food which feeds our minds and souls—the food which heals our hearts and keeps us looking forward to the beauty of the everyday.
Again, this can be interpreted in both practical and abstract forms. We all need shelter of some kind, whether it’s a tent or a building—a place to rest, a place to protect us from the elements, a place to call home. And home can be anywhere and look like anything, depending on our lifestyles and preferences.
But there is another kind of shelter we need as well, and one that we might spend a lifetime seeking. I recently watched a phenomenal TED Talk featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, the exquisitely passionate author of Eat, Pray, Love (and many other beautiful books), in which she discussed everything from wild success and disheartening failure to persevering in the name of love for one’s purpose. While I downloaded and saved the entire talk because of how much it resonated with the growing writer in me, one piece in particular grabbed my eager little heart and made her cry happy tears:
“Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”
This is the other kind of shelter we all need—that for which we live, and which in turn gives us a place to live. It’s the home we know from our dreams, our sincerest devotions and purposes for doing what we do. It’s the home to which we always return, no matter how far we have strayed.
We need this home—the one which is made of our divine purpose in this life, where nothing else matters but our devotion—just as much as we need a physical place to sleep and store our material belongings.
(You had to know this one was coming.)
It’s quite simple: We all need love—familial love, romantic love, intimate love, growing love, benevolent love, generous love, pure love. Every single one of us needs it, even the coldest, meanest, greediest and darkest of hearts that have ever walked this earth.
We all need to receive it and we all need to give it. We need to know the touch of gentle understanding, of tender acceptance for who we are, and we need to know what it means to be that comfort for others, too. It’s about compassionate forgiveness, peaceful contentment in the presence of another (and of oneself), sincere appreciation for the multitude of gifts that sparkle in the eyes of a loved one.
It’s just love. We all need that.
So whether we’re introverts or extroverts, yogis or gym rats, artists or scientists—no matter how much or how little we think we have in common—we always share in our uniqueness. And given the nature of individuality, we all need things like food, shelter and love in a way that only we can experience them; nevertheless, we all need these things.
Sure, it feels good sometimes to know that we’re understood based on a narrower focus with which we can identify and relate. But in the end, we’re all just living, breathing, dreaming beings trying to make the most of this life.
And when we widen the scope in that way, we’re really not all that different.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Purple Sherbert/Flickr