March 11, 2021•350 words
A while ago, when browsing through the archive of this very blog, I encountered one that stood out particularly: Horizontal Comparisons. I read it in full and thought: what a brilliant, original piece of work I did! Trust me, I don't say that often. It felt original, fresh. Mine.
I often quote, link, mention other sources. Other people's work. But, I've always strived for originality with this blog. Maybe that's a wrong approach, I don't know. I find myself often discarding ideas because they were not mine enough. I haven't synthesized them, haven't felt them, came to the same conclusions on my own.
Back to the story. Today, earlier in the evening, I was re-reading The Courage To Be Disliked for a book club meeting tomorrow. I first read the book in January last year - listened to it, rather, as it was an audiobook. As I'm reading it - bam! Horizontal comparisons. The idea I thought was mine. The idea I spent so much time thinking about, polishing. Right there, in the book. A book I read *before** writing the blog post*.
All of this begs to ask: what is even original? I can't escape the creations of others. I can't - or maybe I think I can't - pull off bracketing in the world of art, as Husserl would guide me to do in the world of philosophy. My creations will always be influenced, and often - almost copied - from works of others. Can I even be original at this point? Or is all lost?
We wouldn't have Van Gogh without Caravaggio. Every creator's creations are as much their work as the work of those who came before them. There is originality; but it's just 5% compared to the rest. And it's spread out across works, across creations. One can't be "fully original" nor "not original at all". We, every single one of us, carries the boundaries of creation a little further. Powered by the work of those who came before us.
Steal like an artist. For the sake of going were we've never been before.