As I enjoyed a meal at my favorite restaurant on a recent late Sunday afternoon, I became acutely aware of considerable commotion at a table behind me. In seconds, a group of interesting people — children, teenagers and young adults — came by my table. Then, for some reason, as a group and as individuals, they continued to go from, and back to, their seats regularly for the duration of my meal.
I was struck by what I saw passing the table where I ate. Regardless of age or sex, everyone in the group had a very similar look. They were all dressed very much alike; each of them wore old looking or faded blue jeans with a few holes, and each of them had their hair styled as much alike as possible. As a result, everyone in the group, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, looked a lot alike. I got the impression that each member of the group wanted to be as much like the other members as possible, for the desire to imitate, to be like, others, is a powerful and compelling feeling.
The next morning when I went to my desk to begin the work of the day, I opened an old notebook in which I, sometimes, write little notes to myself. The first note I saw on the first page before me was an entry made about a year ago. It was a startling reminder of the previous evening. It read, “Let us not be like others. Be the self you were created to be.”
Then I discovered that a little over 600 years ago, Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish satirical novelist and dramatist, wrote, “Make it thy business to know thyself which is the most difficult lesson in the world.” This understanding, and development, of the self is more than a momentary flash of insight. Often, it is a long and arduous task that leaves little room for imitation.