Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pondering: Specialness

Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.
- from the movie The Incredibles

The conundrum of specialness. I think of "special" as being particularly meaningful to someone based on some variable criteria. I am special to my mom in a way that is certainly not true of my neighbor. I am special in the first case because in a way, I belong to her. Although no one seems to mind or deny that aspect of specialness, there is something unacceptable in loudly proclaiming to the world at large, "I am special," as if the unspoken end of the phrase is always, "...and you are not."

Where does this exclusivity of specialness come from? Does one person's being special detract from another's specialness? Is there a specialness quota out there that is somehow depleted? What on earth makes one person special anyway... uniqueness?

These questions have been wandering around in my head nonchalantly since watching The Incredibles while I was in college. Then, just this week, I stumbled across C.S. Lewis' elegant solution to the question of specialness (speciality? my spell check doesn't like either word).

"I would prefer to combat the ‘I’m special’ feeling not by the thought ‘I’m no more special than anyone else’ but by the feeling ‘Everyone is as special as me.’ In one way there is no difference, I grant, for both remove the speciality. But there is a difference in another way. The first might lead you to think, ‘I’m only one of the crowd like anyone else’. But the second leads to the truth that there isn’t any crowd. No one is like anyone else. All are ‘members’ (organs) in the Body of Christ [I Corinthians 12:27]. All different and all necessary to the whole and to one another: each loved by God individually, as if it were the only creature in existence. Otherwise you might get the idea that God is like the government which can only deal with the people as the mass."

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