I’ve been reading some of the Soul Pancake book, “Chew on Life’s Big Questions” as a way to try to find inspiration and sort out what’s going on in my head lately. You wouldn’t think it’s possible for some who is only 24 to be having a mid-life crisis, but I think I’ve had about one a year since I turned 20. Ugh.
Anyway, in the section of the book on art and creativity, a question was posed: “Where’s the line between inspiration and imitation?” How do we determine if we’re inspired by someone else’s work, or we’re just imitating it? Is there a clear way to designate? The book also poses the question of whether an idea can ever really be an original. Can it? Think of all the good ideas you’ve had — or ideas from history. Were those original, or just an off shoot of someone else’s work? For those who are creative, can you really just come up with a new idea and create? Or is it somehow based on something you saw once, whether recently or 10 years ago and buried in your memory?
Maybe it’s cynical, but I tend to believe that there is no longer such a thing as an original idea. Whether we know it or not, everything we see/hear/do is influencing us in some way, and those experiences are carried with us through our entire lives. Maybe the only way to come up with something original would be to barricade yourself away from the world, but then probably once you do have an original thought, you’ll realize that someone else already had it. I don’t think this lack of originality is all that bad though. The point of interacting with others is so we can challenge and learn from one another. We can take ideas or inventions that we don’t think are quite right, make our adjustments, and see what happens. That, in itself, is a wonderful thing because it suggests that we don’t just accept things as they are without question.
If no one would have ever questioned or altered someone’s ideas it would be a much different place. We would be stuck with the ideals that were around when the world started and there would be no evolving. That sounds scary.
That being said, I don’t favor a world where everyone is the same. There needs to be some originality – (even if that’s an abstract notion) – if everyone was the same and had the same ideas, it would be intolerable. Maybe in these terms “originality” isn’t the right word…maybe I mean differences. That sounds better. People need to be different, in the way they look, how they act, and what they believe. A place like that sounds scary, and boring as well.