Friday, July 21, 2006

There is nothing new under the sun

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." -- Ecclesiastes 1:9

The heading on Captains Quarters, one of my favorite blogs, has the saying "Thus every blogger, in his kind, is bit by him who comes behind." I can't say for sure what that is supposed to mean, but it always made me think that blogging is, by nature, a derivative work -- that each blogger does little more than add to something someone has already written.

So tonight, I embark on what may well be a fool's errand -- writing an original blog entry. Because this weekend is "original content weekend" in the Virginia Blogosphere, and several of us have signed up to write only "original" work.

Just between you and me, I'm not sure I've ever written anything that could be considered "truly original". To write about any issue of substance, one must first study the issue. Doing so exposes the author to not only the viewpoints of other people, but the words they use to express those viewpoints. And try as we might to express the same ideas without using the same phrases, the simple truth is that English is not the most expansive language in the world. There is a limit to the number of ways one can say "war is, at it's core, failure".

And when others have already expressed the strongest viewpoint with the best turn of the phrase, what is left to do but to plagerise, or more acceptably to liberally quote from those who have outdone themselves? With thousands of authors expressing the same limited number of opinions, what are the chances that some two-bit blogger will invent even one small phrase of originality and merit, much less wrap an entire idea in a splendid covering of flowery prose never before seen by human eyes?

But, you may suggest, why not simply avoid writing about issues, and instead paint a picture of some personal event, or better still some invention of the imagination? Surely an original concept of happenstance is more likely to be "original", right? But that too is folly, and a fruitless pursuit. Because nothing that happens is truly original. What is done has been done before, what happens has happened before. You may think that what has befallen you is something no man has ever experienced -- but it is just as likely that, if you share your story with the person sitting next to you in Yoga, you will find they have experienced the same heartbreak, only twice as bad, for twice as long.

But surely our imaginations can picture something that no other could experience in real life, and that has previously been unimagined? Fat chance. One need look no further than our own cultural looking glass, the silver screen, to see that the very concept of an "original idea" would be both original and unfathamable. Oh, that is not to say that, once in a blue moon someone somewhere will come up with something that, if not truly unique, is different enough to appear as something new. But in a world of billions of people, the rare occurance of some small speck of originality only proves the hopelessness of a world of people with truly original stories to tell.

But if I, among millions of others, grasp this concept, this "theory of repetition", why did I ever agree to participate in a weekend of "original blogging"? For the same reason so many humans to so many stupid things -- pride. I'm not afraid to admit it -- I wanted to do the impossible, to dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star. And much more so because, as is often the case, the challenge was given to me by a woman. And men are largely incapable of avoiding disaster when prodded by a woman.

For example, on Monday I was at my Physical Therapist, which had thus far been very "unpainful". The PT (a woman) suggested we would strengthen some muscles, and put me on the "Chuck Norris" machine. I knew that what I was about to do would lead to disaster, and I told her so. But she insisted I could do it, and suddenly my Neanderthal instincts took over. And darned if I didn't do 10 reps, followed by another 10.

And darned if the next morning, I was incapable of even WALKING. Men are stupid, especially when it comes to challenges, and ESPECIALLY when those challenges are advanced by a member of the fairer sex. (At this point I should note that I don't rightly know whether the "original original idea" came from a man or a woman, only that my recollection is Vivian Page had something to do with it).

So, here I am, in the face of certain failure, with a song running through my head, something about "unsinkable ships sink, unbreakable walls break" -- yes, it's a country music song, and no, I don't own a gun so I think I'm safe for now. And I am writing something that most suredly is not "new", or "original", but rather derivative of a dozen better-written, better-known works which I have been exposed to in my life.

And I can no more ignore those influences than I can breathe air that nobody has ever breathed before.

"Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'?" (Eccl. 1:10) The answer is a resounding NO.

I can only hope that, in spite of my paucity of talent, or maybe BECAUSE of it, I will be judged to have expressed an original viewpoint in an original, albeit less than perfect, fashion. I don't know why I think there will be judging, but if there was I know exactly why I want to win -- Pride. It's not new, it's not original, but it's real. And if I'm managed to turn a phrase somewhere in here that is new to you, feel free to take it and run with it -- Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

1 comment:

Vivian J. Paige said...

You see, you can be original :)

Oh - and it was Terry Rea who proposed this and he is decidely male.

Finally - what's with you guys? Pride cometh before the fall! (Not an original statement :) )