A major academic consensus agrees that all art is an imitation of another, but that could be said for all of sentient free thought. We’re what we pay attention to and what we let influence us. Every idea comes from every other idea that we’ve heard, read, or seen. That’s a bleak look at our human ingenuity. Sure, there are always exceptions who stand out, but maybe there’s more than what we notice.
The CD Player Metaphor -
Think of an old CD player which replays something that’s recorded somewhere else. Whatever audio(or video) played is an imitation of the original. The original is lost in time, as only a cheaper copy can be captured and stored. That’s the novelty factor of any art. Imitations, like the recorded CD that’s played through the audio/visual system, are always a lesser copy of the original.
An original is real art, or the result of free speech, expression, and thought. The rest are attempts to recapture something that cannot and will not succumb to human theft. It gets worse when a CD with many scratches is played in an audio/video system. This scratched up CD stinks and reeks of noise, while the graphics on the CD box present it as a great piece, a legend, a has-been copy of a copy.
Can an original be found anywhere when it’s easier to find a copy and to be a copy? Maybe the original is a myth, like fairies, dragons, and gods. But how exactly does a copy get created?
The Parrot Metaphor -
A recent, but timeless and ever-repeating, news-story created a buzz about a group of parrots in a Brit zoo getting separated by the authorities for cursing heavy profanity. It’s really surprising that people get amazed at such news when we’re the same. It’s nothing new, but only the ever-present state of humanity.
Like parrots, when we humans hear something that excites us, we repeat it until someone repeats us. And so goes the chain reaction of the never ending game of Chinese Whispers called socializing. Is there even a starting point to this chain of continuously copying a copy? Maybe not in a way that glorifies our sentience, but in a better and more responsible or accidental way which is usually avoided as it’s the hardest option present.
Stuck in vicious loops -
We know the way we humans metaphorically become CD players is by being parrots. All parrots and CD players can be caused by fixed cultures, rigid social groups, and tribalistic communal identities which can manifest in many varied forms. Anything not acceptable to the group is punished, and stuff that reinforces the beliefs of the group is rewarded. That’s natural to all humans and animals alike. This necessitates vicious loops of the same thoughts, values, music, art, writings, and expressions being parroted around till sentience stagnates into a deathly lifeless cycle of puppets puppeteering other puppets till none of them can think why.
Accidental or/and bold derailment -
All such vicious loops of parroting must have started somewhere, unlike the time-wasting paradox of the chicken or the egg situation. Such trigger points that spark originality can lazily be regarded as unreal as free will has been disproved by Emile Durkheim, a noted French classical sociologist, whose rationale while meaningful also facilitates irresponsibility and furthers the cycles of the vicious loops.
Maybe despite the practical implausibility of free will, there should be credit given to original expression which would be a unique way of stating something that people know but are unable to articulate. Such incidents can be noticed in Newton’s discovery of gravity from the fall of an apple, Archimedes’ Eureka moment in his bathtub, Nietzsche’s declaration of God is dead and we have killed him, Descartes’ revelation of I think therefore I am, and many other historically impactful moments that are credited with originality while being both far complex and simpler in reality.
All those above examples of well known moments of originality were accidental sparks that hit humans who were bold enough to let their minds explore and wander into a conceptual realm of mental gymnastics. Ironically, those noted examples of originality, like every other imaginable concept, are ideas/concepts we all naturally understand when we study them, and even feel like we’d already known about it after understanding those historical figures’ intriguingly worded expressions.
These individuals’ originality is in their ability to express and word humanely understandable concepts in a way that nobody else had. That took guts and bravery to stray from the conventional lines of thinking and go beyond as the avantgardes of humanity. Everything, no matter how original, is made by human minds for the consumption of human minds. So, maybe all humanly comprehensible concepts are meanings already known to the psyche or the mind of everyone in our species. If something is truly original, it would be so alien that no human in the world would ever comprehend it.
Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious can be a scientific explanation of why we all have similar ideas, thoughts, mindsets, and understandings deep within ourselves. This is the reason like-minded humans band together, forming cultures, social systems, understandings, and indulging in thoughts that aren’t as unique or original as we’d like to think.
The Twist of Originality -
Originality might be just a form of expressing or wording concepts in a way that people would not have done before, but also gets anyone who consumes such original concepts(expressions/wordings) to start thinking and explore parts of their minds that they wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to. An artistic expression can provide a new crutch or a foundation for meanings that would otherwise have not found any stabilizing footing for shared understanding between numerous people.
The popular anthropologist, Yuval Noah Harari, has explored in his work how humans unite under shared fictions like religion, nation, money/currency, laws, human rights, ideologies, politics, art, et cetera. Humans do connect under shared fictions, as shared meanings bring a level of mutual understanding that’s almost magical in nature.
Fans of the same kinds of music, stories(books, movies, TV shows, comic books, et cetera), visual artwork, and interests can emotionally connect with each other due comprehending the same language of meanings, that create tribalistic bonds that transcend geography, blood, race, and gender. This guarantees getting stuck in vicious loops of having a copy of a copy of a copy. Yet, like all historically noted original thinkers, the way to break the cycles of parroting can be found in accidental acts of mental boldness, to frame meanings and concepts in ways that feel different, and thus giving an artistic aura of originality.
Going where nobody has gone before is as believable as Santa Claus and fairy tales, as everything has been explored before by humanity either knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes a twist to a preexisting known concept can open up journeys through seemingly new perspectives, disrupting any existing vicious loops with the magical essence of original art.
(Yep, this article is not just a satire but more of a philosophical exploration of sentience, free will, originality, thought and meaning.)
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