As human beings we assume many things, but there are a few basic assumptions we make about that collective everyone, which are always contradictory. These assumptions have to do with what we have to offer to the world, and what we accept from the world in return.
1. I am different from everyone
We like to assume that we are different from everyone else, uniquely talented and gifted in ways that are beyond the abilities of others. It bolsters our sense of individuality and purpose, and it makes us feel at least a little superior. In our contribution to the world, we assume we are not like everyone else.
2. Everyone is like me
We also like to assume that what we like is exactly what everyone else wants. We often use our own opinions as a measure of public opinion, to figure out what people want out of life, love, entertainment and any number of other human activities and interests. When it comes to what we accept from the world, we use our own feelings as a barometer of the feelings of everyone. In our likes and dislikes we assume everyone is like us.
3. Everyone does it
Everyone has been used by the individual to justify all manner of human stupidity, injustice, and irresponsibility since the beginning of time. Because everyone does something or thinks a certain way, this line of thought makes it an imperative that you follow suit, irrespective of the consequences or better judgement. Too often, everyone is used as the ultimate measure of right and wrong.
Unique like everyone else
On the one hand, we act self-assured in our uniqueness, separate from the rest of humanity. On the other hand we expect the rest of humanity to share our desires and choices, and use the choices of the unnamed masses to justify our actions. We go so far as to be disappointed when the majority disagrees with our pronouncements of aesthetics and good and bad, and hence holds back on their approval of us.
In science and society we are warned not to make assumptions, but making assumptions is the way the human mind works. It is a strong evolutionary safety mechanism that helps us learn from past experiences and extrapolate the results to future events. Decisions could never be taken without assumptions because verification by direct observation is limited in its usefulness in many situations; By the time you have had the chance to observe something, it’s often too late to act on it.
Assuming a position of acceptance
Assumptions are necessary, but contradictory assumptions toss you into a confusing and counter-productive frame of mind. Either celebrate your uniqueness, accepting the inevitable mismatch of thoughts and ideals with others that results, or accept that you are part of the herd, and while you will live in the comfort of knowing you are in agreement with everyone out there, you are not as unique and radical as you would like to believe.
Don’t make assumptions
There is no right choice here, because each of us as has varying views on the balance of power between the individual and the system. To believe that you are both completely unique and also just like everyone else is not only the first step to a lot of suffering, it is also impractical and immensely silly.
So don’t make assumptions for everyone, and be comfortable with who you are, as unique or conforming as that might be.