The Joy of Being Average

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660

Listened to more Alain today.

Our society sets us up to believe that being ordinary is something we should be afraid of or rail against.

He says we have a conflicted vision of the good life in our societies.

In societies with the original Christian background, they very much emphasized the dignity of every life and every human. At the same time, there are societies that are hierarchical with a sense that the winner should take all, that mediocrity is associated with being like everyone else.

If a young person in the US says "I'm aiming for a life where I'm in many ways, just like everybody else", that would be seen as depressing.

We think very well of drama. Drama and melodrama. That many great things are achievable, perhaps only with a certain level of heightened activity and stress and all the rest of it.

He argues against this need to be special:

the ability to tolerate one's own averageness in many fields is the beginning of a certain sort of wisdom. And the insistence always on specialness is a kind of malignant situation.

I find the idea of embracing averageness conflicting and it contradicts with my beliefs for life.

From my exposure to the tech world in the bay and the young ambitious people I see on Twitter, I tell myself I'm capable of those things too, and all I have to do is work hard towards it. I believe I have an obligation to do great things, given my background and the opportunities provided to me through the hard work and sacrifice of my father. Embracing averageness would mean I'm not doing my part as a son, that I'm not being grateful, and I'm enjoying a life that my father never got to have.

The past two months I've had a lot of doubts and anxiety about whether I was fully utilizing my time. Not everyone has the privilege to not be in school or work, and have the time to fully pursue their interests. In moments when I get tired, I tell myself it's not the time to rest. On days where I'm not as productive, I tell myself I'm failing to meet the necessary standards. It does make me question what really drives me, how much of it is intrinsic and personal, and what I'm chasing towards.

Perhaps it's also a fear of not leaving a mark on this world. If there's nothing to testify my existence on this Earth when I'm gone, was I really here? I'm sure this fear of not making an impact is universal. You can't be average yet leave an impact right? You wouldn't call Einstein or Lincoln average.

It will help to define what averageness means for me. A different perspective; maybe any average person also has the ability to change the world. I'm an average person who loves writing and building things. And if I just continue doing what I love, working on ideas that solves real problems in society, I'll end up achieving great things too.