We Are The Sum Of Our Parts

Sometimes people say that everyone is different and special. You may think that you are, but you  probably don’t think that everyone else is. In fact, there’s probably many people you think are below you on any number of levels. I’ll come back to this.

You might be special, but the problem is it only matters if others think that you are; this even matters a great deal to you. An example of this is when you meet someone who thinks a terrible book or film is amazing and you think its garbage. What you see as trite cheese they see as a substantial life lesson. You can’t quite figure out the language or examples to convey them why you are so far advanced that you couldn’t possibly enjoy it the way they did, and even if you could explain this, it would be insulting to them.

Now the fact that someone who you consider to be below you mentally enjoys simple, shoddy films and books shouldn’t come as a suprise but it might be interesting to realize that they probably wouldn’t enjoy a fine book or film like you do. They might even hate it. What you see as masterful subtlety they see as vaguity, what you think is erudite they think is overpolished and pretensious, even if they can’t express that.

Like the good book that is lost on the subpar humanoid, and the lousy one that delights them, so might you be. What makes this worse is those who we consider to be, let’s say a “6” on a 10 scale (with “10” of course being yourself), probably don’t even consider why they don’t like you or don’t think you’re special— they just don’t. As Montaigne says, Only the fools are certain and assured.

However, this brings me back to the “number of levels” part of this, which is to say, there are several levels that others consider, and you probably only consider the areas you excel in when surveying yourself and overvalue where you fall short in others.

For the sake of clarity, I will outline the common criteria as I see it, in no order:

  • Intelligence/Education (1-10)
  • Appearance/Looks (1-10)
  • Wealth/Career/Social Status  (1-10)
  • Sense Of Humor/Disposition (1-10)
  • Confidence/General Outlook  (1-10)

5 simple categories. While you wouldn’t like to assign numeric values to yourself (because you’re special and all), you certainly do with friends and strangers, maybe not even subconsciously.

When you meet a potential partner or friend you do quick mathematics and decide whether they are a viable option for you. Keep in mind, the category values don’t need to match (though red flags are raised when they are in stark contrast) but they do need to match cumulatively.

A better way to reflect on this is when you meet a good friend’s partner. If the math doesn’t add up, you’re more likely to dislike them. If they are charming, wealthy and funny whereas your friend is beautiful, poor and slightly dull you declare your friend has scored. Opposites attract, or some other stupid cliche fires in your head. (God you’re dumb)

If such a system did not exist we would not understand the wealthy older man with the attractive but vapid young woman, or the bookish college professor with the beautiful wife—- it is not the law of opposites it is that we are the sum of our parts and not much more. Of course this means that you want to fill your basket with those who have qualities that you do not have (and others to you) but keep in mind this is not borne from utopic desires. Very simply, you want to absorb what they have and they you.

Further Illumination; Have you ever noticed that:

– A friend was dumped shortly after losing a job?
– Your more wealthy friends receieve a level of deference in your social circle that your poorer frinds do not?
– Someone you know is regarded better/worse after a change in physical appearance? After a promotion? Graduation from professional school? After finding or losing a valuable mate?

All of the above don’t change the person on any permament level, necessarily, but they are additions or deductions of their total sum, and those around them account accordingly.

This leads you to ask for a conclusion, basically: What do I do about this?

First you need to be honest with yourself. This is difficult at first. Take inventory of experiences you’ve had that should have shaped an honest opinion of yourself and notice where you ignored important lessons.

Cato The Younger said a man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true. Cato’s right, stop duping yourself and get to work.

Ultimately, forget the “everyone’s special” crap and embrace the fact that you have categories and numeric values. Focus on what you can improve, and be honest that other people are calculators too, and don’t fall into the trap of playing by a different set of rules than everyone else. With that, you will find a nice sense of calm when relating to others around you.

Someone may be far more educated than you but you’re more charming. They may be richer than you but they have bad taste in music and fashion and have small boobs. They may be more attractive but couldn’t put together an interesting sentence if their life depended on it. They see your weapons, you see theirs. You’ll enjoy others more once you realize the inequity of humans, but also the ultimate equality.

For example, I heard that really good looking guys have small weiners, and I really hope its true.

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  1. great post mate, spot on. been a reader now for a year and always a nice read, especially the more serious bits.

    if all took this to heart the dumb-beautiful and brilliant-ugly would not resent each other for focusing their lives on each others weaknesses as much! keep it up (-:

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  2. thanks dennis. ive thought about this before, and wrote this late at night and i think missed some key points. I started writing it because a girl I know was describing a guy she was dating and some of the factors in his favor were: nice personal style, cool car, in good physical shape. I think the cool car part stood out the most because that is only a function of money and maybe a little taste, but you do tend to calculate in what kind of car someone drives, for some reason.

    The obvious allusion was that this guy had a lame personality, built a lot of stock into his cool car, diesel jeans and workout routine, and that somehow made up for him being not fun to talk to, etc.

    Ultimately, oh well, its life. Adapt.

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  3. Thanks Izzy. You should have made up one part that you didn’t agree with so that I could argue it more and get all pissed off then you could concede and we’d be fast friends and roll down the hill together wrestling and laughing.

    Maybe next time.

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  4. The sum of the parts thing would make sense if the parts can be valued according to a metric system our in numerics of 1-10, but what westerners value as a 8 in education maybe different from an asian or even among westerners actually, like Americans and Europeans. I mean there are too many varibles in terms of cultural narcissism, I guess you can apply this to a monoculture society, but maybe I’m just ranting. Anywho, I appreciate the boldness and practicality of this as a stimulus for self improvement.

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