You are a unique specimen of nature’s experiments. In all of the universe’s history, in all the trillions of stars and galaxies, there has never been a single person quite like you, and there never will be. No one has the exact sequence of your DNA or your fingerprints. You are one of a kind. If you think that this is an exaggeration, consider the odds against the possibility that somewhere there might be someone remotely like you.
Recent DNA research suggests that for two people selected at random, there will be approximately 20,000 single base pair differences in just the protein coding sequences. To be extra conservative let’s ignore all the rest of the genome, and consider only half of those 20,000 differences, the half that actually changes the protein sequence, leaving 10,000 differences. We'll be even more conservative, and assume that each difference represents a choice of only 2 possible bases (e.g. either A or G; or either C or T).
Assuming a random distribution of those differences the chance of two genomes being identical is 1 in 210,000, a number incomprehensibly larger than the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in the entire universe.
It seems that the entire history of the universe has waited for you to happen, and once you are gone you will never happen again. Ever. Neither will any of the other 7 billion unique human experiments of nature that are currently inhabiting this little planet.
Think about a unique treasure, the Mona Lisa, the great pyramid of Giza, a Dead-Sea scroll. There is only one of each, and they are irreplaceable. You are a Mona Lisa, a pyramid, a scroll.
Or think of the last of an endangered species, the last Condor. Think how precious, how fragile, and how important it is. It does not matter whether the last Condor is pretty or particularly smart. It does not need a resumé. Its significance lies strictly in its uniqueness, in the fact that once it dies there will be no more of its kind. You are just as unique. You are an endangered species of one.
How would you treat the last of a species? Would you harm it, torment or insult it? The next time you mutter to yourself: "There you go again you fat ugly moron", or the next time you abuse your body to gain a bit more respect or a bit more money, think of that Condor.
I am not talking about love here. You don't need to love that last Condor. What you need is to treasure, respect, and care for it. Love is an easy word to hide behind since it can mean anything you want it to mean. You can "love thy neighbor" in the name of Christ and then go slaughter that neighbor because he is a Jew, or you can pray five times a day to "Allah the Loving Merciful" and then blow up the twin towers. Given the choice I'd take "treasuring, respecting and caring for" any day over "love".
Once you learn not to harm yourself, how could you then go out and harm any other such unique treasure as yourself? Would you deliberately and wantonly kill a last Condor?
The Buddhists teach that peace starts within us. If you are peaceful inside you will generate peace around you. It doesn't work the other way around. "Thou shalt not kill" has never worked precisely because it deals with the outside and ignores the inside. The seventh commandment would have been far more effective as "Thou shalt treasure thyself". Every killing has its root in disrespect for the victim, be it yourself or someone else.
You may have a hard time remembering your uniqueness because ever since you were born it has been drilled into your head that you are part of greater whole, a small part of some much larger and much more significant group. You are part of “humanity”. You are one small girl amongst all the females of the world, one white or black among all the other members of your race, an American or a German, gay or straight. You are an accountant or a plumber, a Liberal or a Conservative, a Christian or an atheist. Whatever you are, so they told you, there are millions of others just like you.
But are there? Saying that you are just a small insignificant part of a greater whole is like saying that the last Condor is just a bird. In your heart of hearts you once knew that no one was like you, yet your parents, school, and church taught you otherwise, and gradually you forgot who you were.
The story of why you agreed to trade your singular unique identity for a fabricated group identity is the sad story of human misery. The trade off was supposed to make you bigger, more powerful. “There is power in numbers” they said. Joe Shmoe is a nobody, they told you in school, but Joe Shmoe a proud American is the greatest in the world. So much so that Joe has the right, even the duty, to go half around the world and kill a whole bunch of non-Americans who have neither caused him any personal harm nor posed any real and direct threat to him.
That's power? That's greatness?
Mathematically speaking Joe Shmoe got a bum deal. As a unique individual he was far bigger than Joe the member of a group. There can be nothing bigger than one-of-a-kind. It is beyond comparison. Sometimes numbers tell a truer story than patriotic sentiments.
In court all witnesses are required to perjure themselves by swearing “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. It is impossible.
What is “the truth”? What is a lie?
“Thou shalt not lie” is not even one of the Ten Commandments. Neither is it one of the Seven Deadly Sins”. Curious, eh?
Did you know that devout Shiites are commanded by their faith to lie, so as to conceal their identity.
Everybody lies, all the time. Isn’t make-up a lie, or dying your hair? How about protecting your child from unpleasant facts by saying: “She’s asleep now with Jesus”?
Exaggeration is a lie too. TV commercials, sales pitches, and motivational speeches, are at best exaggerations, at worst deliberate concealments of truth.
Politicians and corporations have their own brand of truth, for which we use the euphemism “spin”. The defining example of spin was Bill Clinton’s prevarication about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. When asked whether he was having an affair with her he said: "there is nothing going on between us." When later challenged by the grand jury, he replied: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."
No coincidence that he started out as a lawyer, like most politicians.
Even if what I say is partly true, my underlying intention to manipulate you in itself turns the entire message into a lie. Intention counts. But curiously it does not work the other way around.
If I espouse a falsehood while believing it is the truth, if I did not intend to lie, my intention does NOT make my falsehood true. If I genuinely believe that God created the universe in six days and that Evolution is a hoax that belief of mine does not render “Creationism” true, not even for yourself. “Personal truth” is a lie.
So, truth is only about undeniable facts, but which facts?
If I am a fighter pilot launching a missile from my F-18 at Ahmed am I the killer of Ahmed in the same sense of Ahmed’s jealous neighbor who knifed him, or the engineer who supervised the dumping of toxins into Ahmed’s drinking water (Ahmed keeps dying from multiple causes)? If the pilot and the neighbor and the engineer were called before a jury would they all be convicted as killers, as the truth would demand? Which of them is the “true” killer?
Certain things though are clear-cut lies. “Official truths” for instance, which are nothing but sanctioned falsehoods, or “half-truths” and “white lies”, as if truth could be parceled into smaller portions like a half-rotten apple.
But what about fudging, or being polite, or just keeping your mouth shut when you know the truth?
Since we can never know everything, does it follow that every truth must contain a lie just waiting to be discovered? And if all truths are only relative, personal, and temporary then there is no such thing as Truth in an absolute sense, and therefore neither can there be a Lie? (Maybe that’s why lie detectors are not admissible as evidence in court).
Truth and lies it seems are in the eyes of the beholder, just like
The Kvetching Factory
"Start every day with a smile and get it over with" (W.C. Fields)