Deceptively Original

A picture taken of overhanging tree roots.

While this might seem self-indulgent, indeed the idea raises some good questions; not to mention, it is an awesome conversation starter (that is if you’re talking to other self-labeled philosophers).  There’s a theory that was brought to my notice some time ago during a conversation that made me wonder-is anything truly original?  We all seem to have our own thoughts and beliefs in evaluating what we believe to be more original than other ideas.  For instance, is a writer unoriginal when they involve tall elves merely because Tolkien is well-known for his own depictions?  Is that not like asking what came first: the chicken or the egg?  Have you ever read a story, or listened to music, or especially watched TV and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I think I am having deja vu.  Haven’t I read/ listened/ seen this before?”  Here’s my theory: the idea, the very essence of originality, is a faux belief.  The basis of art is to be inspired by what we see, hear, feel, from those around us or even other art that we experience.  There will be elements of similarity among authors, artists, and musicians-that is unavoidable.  But if you are spending time looking for the similarities, perhaps you are missing the point of the art itself.  A jazz musician once said that instead of playing the written notes, he aspired to play the notes that weren’t on the page.  That is, you should as well look for what is not obvious, what makes a piece different.  It is like seeing similarities in people, but once you know and understand a person, you see the individual.  So the next time you roll your eyes at something to say it is unoriginal, don’t be too quick to dismiss its possible unique characteristics.


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