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Thoughts on Individuality

Posted on Thursday, September 28, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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12 Comments
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birds at a bird feeder with the word individuality written on top

My sister runs a rescue for domestic rabbits, American, European, lop-earned – the sort people buy at Easter, then toss away. What better way to live? She says each bunny has a personality, which got me thinking about individuality – and people.

More modestly, I have bird feeders, always grouped birds by species, chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches – never attributed personality to just one.

Then, last week something happened, reminding me to get out of my head, set aside Peterson’s Guide, and think for myself, harder about individuality.

With these outdoor birds – and two high-personality dogs – I also have a parakeet named Grant, either for Ulysses S. or Cary, take your pick.

The dogs are individuals, but the parakeet is what got my full attention. If you do not have one, what follows will seem odd. If you do, it will be old hat. Here it is.

Grant insists on being an individual, often showcasing his personality early in the morning. One way is engaging in non-stop conversation with birds out his window.

Observed closely, he does not address each the same way, nor even ones that look alike the same, but seems to address them individually, thoughts fitted to the flyer.

Nor are his remarks, alternately streams of hurried conversation, bold outbursts, and humble murmuring random. He will sit and watch one seed sifter, then speak. He will pause for some, jump into it with others, attentive to what he sees.

He begins his morning lectures, boasting, berating, eagerly watching and murmuring near five a.m., continues through the day, now and then turning to bark at the dogs, a trick they taught him, which he now uses back on them.

When night falls, like clockwork he climbs to the top of his cage, goes quiet, puts his head in his feathers, and sleeps, no doubt preparing the next day’s lecture.

But the interesting thing is, if you watch individual outdoor birds – one lone chickadee, an upturned nuthatch, busy woodpecker – they do have personalities.

One chickadee is in and out, another claims ownership of a rung and lingers. One nuthatch is brave, the next cautious catching sight of the inside, maybe deferential. One woodpecker is all about seeds, another likes to hammer the banister.

Grant seems to appreciate all this, talking a blue streak to some, screeching at others, pursuing a more deliberate intra-window friendship with a few.

The main point, or what washed over me, is that he seems to think these fellow fliers are individuals, no two the same, or else puts on a good show of doing so.

While I am hard pressed to differentiate birds and rabbits except by species, they do seem to have personality, some getting what they can and then right off the grid, others happy to linger, grow dependent, trusting the government, namely me.

Of course, I do not tax them, except with observation. Nor does Grant, except for conversation. I do not regulate their speech, prevent them from protecting their young, invade their nests, or try to jail them, except for Grant, who is more a shared resident of the big house, co-keeper of the dogs, and glad to be admired.

So, if rabbits and birds are empirically, unceasingly, self-evidently individuals, loosely grouped by feather, how much more are we – creatures who can think, speak, work, figure things out, and have far greater capacity for individuality?

How much more does it rest with us to become individuals, use our unique capacities to understand the world, learn, grow, and apply our brains, hearts, and muscles to shaping the world round us, not deferring, defaulting, or accepting it?

The government feeds us, often as groups. Too often the government does not see that we are individuals, even works to diminish our individuality. We should not.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a lifetime defender of free thought and individual liberties. He insisted we see ourselves as individuals, become who we could.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else … is the greatest accomplishment,” he wrote – implying a responsibility to do so.

“The only person you are destined to become … is the person you decide to be,” said he. By implication, let no one define you, least the government. Do not be coerced, scolded, scorned or cajoled into conformity. Be yourself.  

Sometimes – not always but sometimes – I awake to hear Grant aflutter, being himself, vigorously conversing with birds on the other side of the glass, and wonder. Maybe identity politics is “for the birds” – or not even for the birds!   

Grant loves to chatter, and seems to live by Emerson’s invitation: “Write it on your heart, that every day is the best day in the year.” Pondering Grant and his pals, I recall another Emerson adage, breezier: “Be silly, be honest, be kind.” Nothing could be easier.  

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Alicia
Alicia
9 months ago

It is true we are individuals with a gift to offer humanity. Step out of the box of titles, color, groups, and be free to think about who you are, what you want and don’t want, and live the life that balances you. You will know it exist when you are still, observe, in awareness of you. Happiness is found when you are a conscious being of who you are. The power you hold is within you!

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
9 months ago

Thanks for this very good quality, enjoyable, informative story Robert. The Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes are important ideas , to respect the individuality of people and to develop individuality. Respect for individual liberties — brings purpose to life , helps to appreciate what our purpose should be. Growing up during 1950’s — 1960’s my family was home to two cats, a dog, two parakeets. About the birds, I remember how they would express curiosity about things new or different that came to their attention and thought that was neat how they did that. Over the years I became interested at times seeing how good I could imitate wild bird sounds — ducks mostly, then geese, and sea gulls too. One time while quacking with a flock of about fifty ducks a woman walked by walking her dog and she said she was impressed how well I spoke Mallard ! We both had a laugh over that comment.Then her dog gave me look, as I responded to a duck quack and the expression on it’s face looked like it was thinking something like ” O.K. this guy speaks duck language, that’s really interesting ! ” The dog started to bark after the ducks quacked and after I returned with a quack or two .We just did that for a few minutes , it was great fun . I explained to the woman that I wasn’t really communicating with the ducks, just trying to get close as possible to imitating their quacking. We had coffee and nice conversation and became good friends through the experience . Anyway we met at the duck pond a couple times each month and it was nice having someone like her join in the duck language adventures . So, the whole matter of respect for animals, respect for people is very important , your writing is appreciated . Well Done ! Just remembered there actually was some communication with the ducks whenever food was involved during the duck pond visits. So, communication with critters is something important, there is much to be learned from animals for sure. Whenever we brought high quality duck food for the flock the quacking was noticeably more enthusiastic than usual.

MJ Cunningham
MJ Cunningham
9 months ago

GREAT philosophy for life! Bring it on, this world needs more individuality.

LauraC
LauraC
9 months ago

Individuality, my favorite word! Good job!

Dave K
Dave K
9 months ago

I agree completely that we need to focus on individuals, not groups when it comes to our government. The constitution does not mention anything about groups. It is solely focused on individual citizens. Our founders knew what they were doing. We need to get back to that.
I think the following 3 amendments would clean up the deep state very quickly….
1) Candidates running for federal offices cannot accept donations from groups of any kind. Further, only US citizens who are eligible to vote for a candidate may donate to that candidate.
2) The federal government cannot ask any questions in a census that could be used to categorize citizens, other than their age (for voting rights, military draft registration, and for retirement benefit eligibility) and their state of residence (for congressional representation).
3) The federal government cannot give away anything of value (monetary or otherwise) to any group, including state governments. The only exception would be to give military aid to foreign governments who are sworn allies of the US, and then only in support of congressionally declared acts of war. Anything given out by the federal government must be made equally available to all individual US citizens, and only US citizens.

Laura Bentz
Laura Bentz
9 months ago

He forgot to mention one glaring fact: God made us all individuals and we are His workmanship. Just like he made all the creatures with individual traits as well. We all share a beautiful world.

Melinda
Melinda
9 months ago

When I was young I tried to blend in, to conform to my peers, but in my mind I was always different and didn’t seem to think like everyone else. With age, I hope comes a bit of wisdom. Now I celebrate my difference and am not afraid to show it and speak it. It feels good, a kind of freedom to be.

Mikey
Mikey
9 months ago

Good article, thanks!

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
9 months ago

Because voting Democrat always works out so well for America. Don’t you have homework to do before tomorrow?

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
9 months ago

And you’re the crouton nobody wants on one.

Rik
Rik
9 months ago

I used to have an old dog that I renamed Biden because he drooled constantly and couldn’t hold his urine. I eventually had to put him down for his own good! Just like I think Jackass Joe needs to be put down for the good of the country! Wishing and hoping but I’m really not very lucky!

President Joe Biden departs after speaking at the NAACP Convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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