If The World Was Populated by Six Billion of Me, I’d Totally Be Gay

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Even now, I do it. After ten-plus years of struggling to be less stupid with my thought processes, when someone else’s bad behavior gets to me, I still catch myself thinking “Now, if everyone thought like me, the world would be a much better place.”

People wouldn’t stop and chat in doorways. Nobody would enter a quiet room loudly. Nobody would drive 49 in a 60, or 79 in a 60. There would be no littering, and definitely no chewing with your mouth open.

I do remember coming to that exact conclusion one day: that everyone should be like me, and then the world’s problems would be solved. I was maybe eleven.

I don’t remember what triggered it exactly but I had certainly just been wronged somehow, maybe by some kid who had chained his bike across the whole bike rack, leaving me no choice but to lock mine to a stop sign (which everyone knows you can just lift out of the ground).

Why didn’t he think about all the other kids with bikes when he did that? I knew I would have recognized the critical importance of leaving as much space for others as possible. It should have been the first thing on his mind, no matter who he was.

Whatever the offending act was, at that moment in my life I was fervently convinced that my thinking and behavior was damn near perfect, and that the world was imperfect exactly insofar as other people were unlike me. It seemed so obvious.

Seeing as how at the time I had about as much insight into my behavior as, say, George Costanza — who, in a short-sighted moment of his own, almost certainly would have elected to have the world populated with six billion of himself — in my fit of righteous indignation I was unable to see that a world populated with six billion of me would be a freakish and frightening place.

A Fabulous Dystopia

There would be certain obvious and immediate benefits, but also some weird side-effects. I can say without doubt that sidewalk traffic would always be an orderly affair, with everyone walking smartly past each other on the right, though their eyes would be permanently averted to avoid that accidental sidewalk-glance awkwardness.

Libraries would grow to be among the richest institutions in the world, because every citizen would find himself  mysteriously incapable of returning his books on time no matter how hard he tried. The fines would generate billions.

Politics would be even duller than it is now, particularly because none of the citizens would be quite outgoing enough to run for office, even though anyone who did would win in a landslide.

Nobody would ask for directions, or seek help with their schoolwork, which is just as well because they’d have nothing new to teach each other anyway.

And perhaps most obviously, considering the circumstances, they would definitely all be gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Now, as it stands right at this moment, I can’t imagine finding any inclination to get down with a dude. But with drastically different circumstances — whose weight and feeling I couldn’t possibly comprehend until I’m in them — I suspect it would be inevitable that I’d behave in ways I currently find to be unimaginable.

A little variety, please

As much as I like to think I’ve matured a lot since eleven, when someone else’s behavior irks me I often still find myself thinking that people really should be acting in ways that make sense to me — how I would act, or at least how I think I would. I often think “If I can act this way, they should be able to also.” If I can refrain completely from drinking and driving, or getting in fist-fights, or taking eight minutes to count out my change at the counter, it is reasonable to expect that any other given person can, at all times.

The undeniable fact (and I think I’m only half-joking at this point) that a population of Davids would by its very nature find itself to be entirely gay highlights an important point. You see, I’m not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but it’s clear that the same person in different circumstances would do different things, and develop different values, different capabilities, different needs and different fears. Different things would make them lash out. Different things would make them crumple and sob.

And all we see as outsiders is what others do. We get no reliable insight as to why. It’s hard enough accounting for your own behavior.

Differing life situations and personal experiences are what create our inclinations to act the way we do. Even if everyone started out the same, the variety of our respective experiences carve a different arc for each person’s story. Yet, if you’re anything like me (maybe you’re not, what do I know?), you can easily slip into the belief — usually when you’re pissed off — that any given person, at any time, should have the insight, the know-how, and the inclination necessary to act like you think they should.

That asinine thought — that other people need to be more like me — is really a demand of the most childish kind: I want things to be easy for me, and when they’re not it’s because other people are being stupid, and I know better. There is more than a bit of that eleven-year-old left in me.

So if you ever find yourself thinking that thought — that other people need to be more like you, I urge you to think about that dismal, womanless world of six billion Davids, each struggling to find happiness with what their imperfect world has given them. If you can appreciate their plight, then it should be easier to make do with a world that at least offers a little more variety in its dysfunction.

After all, that’s what we’re always working with anyway. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

R

Photo by Madnzany


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{ 30 Comments }

Colleen January 6, 2011 at 3:50 am

Hi David,
I can’t say I have ever considered that the world would be a better place if everyone was like me but I do think some of those commons sense behaviours you mentions could be a little more adhered to by the general population. Blocking walkways and door ways, selfishly using the entire bike rack, not being mindful when driving, pushing in when there is a line up, not using manners drive me nuts at times. But like you say if everyone was the same the world would be a boring place Oh well never mind!
I liked your picture at the top of the post it proves men should not be left at home with a tripod and a digital camera as they get up to all kinds of mischief. My husband did the same thing recently. I love him dearly but one of him is enough too.

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David January 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

What I was trying to get at was that the values we uphold ourselves become what we call “common sense,” while we remain oblivious to the ways in which we are undoubtedly vexing others on a regular basis. It’s as if we always consider ourselves to be the people who are meeting a reasonable standard of conduct. We calibrate “common sense” based on how others inconvenience us. The phrase common sense tends to be used only when describing the apparent shortcomings of other people.

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Colleen January 6, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Hi David,
don’t worry I know I have plenty of short comings of my own and I try to discipline myself not to inflict those on the unsuspecting public. Needless to say I am sure I am not successful 100% of the time but at least I am trying.

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Samantha Dermot January 6, 2011 at 5:44 am

I am actually thinking same thing. Until now, I can’t totally understand why people have different attitude like me. Personally, I find myself responsible. So if everybody possess that kind of attitude, they might have much better lives. On the other hand, that’s why God created us differently so we can play different roles in this world.

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Niels January 6, 2011 at 6:07 am

Well, honestly I think the world would be a big mess with 6 billion me’s ;-)

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Sam January 6, 2011 at 6:16 am

I’m usually fairly good at excusing other people for their behaviour, especially when other people around me are being overly judgemental or angry, so usually I don’t find myself wishing for a world of people like me. I tend to think most people are like me anyway, in some ways. Sometimes I figure someone acted ‘badly’ because they had a bad day (like I sometimes do), or they had their head in the clouds (as I nearly always do), or were a bit forgetful or thoughtless (as I often am). Although I admit there are some acts that I can never explain, so matter how hard I try to rationalise them.

The initial thought I had when I saw the blog post and before reading it was: if there was just another one of me, I may well become gay. I think in the end we’re all looking for someone who can really understand us, who can relate to our weaknesses and faults, and enjoy the same things that bring us joy. And yet, it seems pretty much impossible in theory to find someone who is like us in so many ways (and heck, maybe that’s not as desirable as I think it might be, anyway – though I am perhaps a little narcissistic anyway, so I’m aware of my bias) so we make do with something close to comfortable.

Not really relevant maybe, but I thought I’d mention it anyway :P

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Jay Schryer January 6, 2011 at 7:00 am

Six million Jays wouldn’t be so scary. Just that one who had his finger on “the button”. Now THAT Jay is one terrifying dude! Nobody wants the threat of total nuclear annihilation in the hands of a madman! :)

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David January 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Would that Jay really have the ill-will to vaporize all those other Jays? Only you know. :)

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Lisis January 6, 2011 at 7:05 am

Great title! If everyone in the world were exactly like me, I’d have to find a new way to be. It would be my worst nightmare to be exactly like everyone else.

I usually embrace the differences. When someone seems extraordinarily rude or obnoxious, I assume they are either lower on the spiritual ladder, or maybe they found out their loved one is cheating on them that day… so I tend to feel a little sorry for them, rather than upset. I’m sure it’s just as inappropriate as wishing they would behave as I do, but… whatever. We do what we’ve gotta do to cope with those who “travel” with us.

On another note, your post reminded me of the Dr. Seuss story, “Too Many Daves,” and I wondered how you would come up with 6 billion nicknames? Did you read that story? http://www.public.iastate.edu/~garden/seuss.html

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David January 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm

My favorite part was at the bottom:

“To return to my homepage, click on the phantom mask.”

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Lindsay January 6, 2011 at 8:09 am

I’ve never pondered a world with 6 billion Lindsays, but I do often think/wish others were as thoughtful as I (try) to be, etc…More than wishing more people were like ME, though, I just often get indignant about how others are. It’s not that I think I’m perfect. I know I’m not. It’s just that it’s far easier to notice how *not* perfect everyone else is.

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David January 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

“It’s not that I think I’m perfect. I know I’m not. It’s just that it’s far easier to notice how *not* perfect everyone else is.”

There it is.

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Lisis January 7, 2011 at 7:46 am

Kinda mysterious, right? :)

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Tom K January 6, 2011 at 10:10 am

“The World is big enough for EVERYBODY.” (http://www.jancox.com/)

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Henway January 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I don’t actually want the world to be populated with 6 billion of me… I just want the world to be populated with 1 male.. me, and the rest women.. beautiful, non-obese women ^_^

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) January 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Attribution error~ gives me the opportunity to see what it is about me that drives me nuts.

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nrhatch January 6, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Wonderful post.

Part of the problem is the Golden Rule so many of us learned in Sunday School ~ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It encourages us to consider how we want others to treat us.

We need to adopt a different Golden Rule:

I bless you. I release you. I set you free.
I allow you to be you and me to be me.

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Brigid January 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I suppose it could be intriguing to see the different aspects of myself in action, all at the same time, all looking the same (although I would hope I might discover an part of myself with good dress sense), acting independently of each other – so to speak. But isn’t that what we are doing anyway? All different aspects of our own perception of who we are surrounded by. I know I only see a certain side of the people I know and at the same time I can surprise myself by being something to somebody I didn’t know I could be! haha.
Its a fun concept, cheers for the thought

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Kiron January 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I’ve often contemplated how scary the world would be if there were two of me. I’m not sure I want to think about six billion of me.

Honestly though, every time I think about how nice it would be if everyone thought like me, I have to think about how unhappy most of us would be. I’m a computer programmer and I like what I do, but if the world was all like minded to me, society would be completely nonfunctional. There would be no Janitors, no construction workers, no accountants, no artists, no farmers, no teachers, and even though the largest building in any given city would be a Chipotle with a frozen yogurt machine, there’d be nobody making burritos.
I guess what I mean is that thinking of a world full of me gives me a profound respect for the billions of people out there who do the things I don’t want to.

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Joy January 9, 2011 at 5:38 am

I *love* the title and I love how your mind thinks!
If the world had six million of me..there would be trouble indeed:) I allow for unfolding in my life, so I tend to embrace new and different daily, sometimes even surprising my self..funny to think even *I* couldn’t predict how the world would be with six million of me..There would definitely be no order in walking on sidewalks, although the food would be absolutely delicious since my one constant is I am an excellent cook:)

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Joy January 9, 2011 at 5:42 am

And quite obviously we’d suck at math..since I cannot differentiate between ‘million’ and ‘billion’ *grin*

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William January 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

I’ve always said that we need a more enlightened world, and by enlightened I mean what everyone means: more like me.

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David January 12, 2011 at 7:13 am

That’s what I’m getting at. I’m not so sure I got my point across. A world with 6 billion of me isn’t something I ever wished for, it’s just the logical extension of that absurd kind of thinking: that my way is better.

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Serenity April 10, 2011 at 8:24 am

I think you got your point across quite clearly :-) It is an important thing to remind ourselves of often, as the ego likes us to think our way is THE way – or that we even really understand what is happening at all (such as WHY that person is walking so slowly, or that our need for speed is more important than their needs, etc). Such thinking distorts our expression of ourselves as the loving compassionate beings we are when ego falls away.

Such thinking also highlights the ways in which we like to think that our one wee mind can possibly understand, interpret, assess, and analyze every possibility and probability occurring in the world around us and know the best course of action for each and every individual to take as we move together through this human story, in order to create the best outcome. No, rather, we only see one tiny perspective. It is like we are peering through the lens of a microscope at one cell of a larger organism, and trying to say that OUR decision about that one cell and its needs are OBVIOUSLY more important, logical, practical, and necessary than that of any around it. Little do we recall, it seems, that we live in a closed system, wherein everything is interconnected. It is akin to your heart thinking it is separate from the rest of your body. Well, we know that when one system in the body is out of whack, it affects the rest of the organism. Perhaps if the heart understood what its greater demand was doing to the rest of the body, it would think twice…?

Or one could look at it another way: just as we think others are expendable, perhaps we are equally so. Even in a closed system, energy is often transformed. Even our human body decomposes, and becomes food for worms, which eventually weaves us into the ecosystem in a new way. Sorry for the morbidity here. Just…we like to think we are so consequential, and so all-knowing. Personally I used to want to ‘save the world’ or at least ‘change it for the better.’ But then I realized, all I can change is me. And that…quite honestly, what is ‘better’ for me, and fits my definition, may not be better for everyone. I tried at first to change that to ‘sustainable’ but … sustainable for WHOM? For humanity. A virus, though, could argue otherwise, and that humans are only necessary as hosts, and that other hosts could be found were humans to disappear. Not that I’m arguing for such :-) I’m just saying, it is ALL egocentric in the end. And when I really got down to it, I realized: Why do I think My Way, or even ME, am more important, or wiser, or better, than all the great minds that have passed before me, and which will come after me?

Don’t take that wrong – I’ve not got low self-esteem. I love the body I have here and now to enjoy, and I treat it well. I wake each morning loving the fact that I am ALIVE, and appreciating the faculties with which I can enjoy exploring this earth and everything in it. But….at this point, I never take a moment of that for granted, or assume that it is mine to have and hold. I am simply honored with the privilege of enjoying it through the lens of conscious awareness at this moment in time. Right here, right now, I have this lens through which to peer, to enjoy a close-up perspective of reality.

Another way I like to look at is this: Think of an impressionist painting. Stand close and all you see are a bunch of little dots. Step back, and you see a whole picture, you understand what story those little dots are telling. But right here, right now, in this body, on this planet, all I see is one little dot. My perspective is that little dot. I am IN IT. I am IN LIFE. That means I am too close to POSSIBLY EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND the big picture I’m living inside. That thought is, for me, pretty humbling. And to circle back to your 6 billion Davids….what a boring picture that story would be if every dot were the same! We need variety to create differentiation in the picture, to shade and pattern it, to give it depth and add perspective.

Life is beautiful, especially when we realize all we can know, change, or do is to be as perfectly ourselves as humanly possible, living in alignment with what we know at our core, and to stop interfering with others thinking we know who they should be. Fall in love with learning who you are, and the job of BEING just that…and it takes you out of the obsession to worry about how others should be.

I love your words David. I am so grateful for your blog, I am quite falling in love with it. I have hungered for a new font of external intellectual stimulation, and I am, for now, finding that hunger sated here. Much gratitude.

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Mara January 10, 2011 at 4:10 am

Great article, thank you :)
I was feeling the same until a year ago. After going some extreme frustrating and emotional situations i realised that everything was in my head, my biased mind, which considers only its own experiences and knowledge. Not interested in understanding others but expecting others to understand me…
So i made a decision to make my and others life easier. First, communicate with others always with a smile (its nice to share something positive like smiles) and when ever i get into annoying situation i think of three possibilities: there is some kind of lesson for me to learn i.e. patience, understanding, listening etc., the person might be having a bad day, or the person haven’t had any lesson learned yet from his/her attitude.

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga January 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm

What a great article David. I personally believe there is a lot of that 11 year old left in all of us. The overwhelming majority of people think they know what’s right, thus the desire is there to impose our expectations on others. But when you think about it for a while you know better. If everyone decided to think, speak, act and live the same; we’d be bored out of our freaking minds. The joy of life is in the variety, but I admit it doesn’t always feel that way.

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Brad January 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm

For me, there would always be long lines at cash registers. I have a that inability to simply take out a reasonable-sized bill and hand it over. I spend a minute flipping through my wallet to see what’s in there, take a bill out, decide I don’t want to break it, start looking again from the beginning, and then desperately just pull out a few bills and hope they cover the price. Do a quick count as I hand them over, then throw a couple more in. Five seconds later I am handed coins, bills, receipt, and coupons. I just stuff everything into my pockets in a ball.

I really don’t know how people do it smoothly.

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David January 17, 2011 at 6:38 am

The key is to be patient after you’ve paid, move aside and take the time to put all the bills into your wallet in order. Then when it’s time to pay again, you know where your twenties, tens, fives and ones are. You can always find the right combination that way. And don’t be afraid of breaking bills. You end up with the same money.

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Brad January 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for finally filling me in on that. :) Nah, I understand it, but it just seems like everyone is better at it than me. That’s okay though.

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timigaguy November 15, 2011 at 1:24 am

There would be so much random awesomeness if there was 7 billion me’s.
would there be both male and female personifications of me?
i’d like to think so.

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