Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Through Whose Looking Glass?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.: "Nothing is so common-place as to wish to be remarkable."

Samuel Johnson wrote, "Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble."

Faulkner once said, "Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself."

Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world."

Nietzsche wrote, "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe."

"I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn." Albert Einstein

"If I am what I have and if I lose what I have, who then am I?" German psychologist Erich Fromm

Voltaire wrote, "There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts."

"Is it not the glory of the people of America, that whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?"  James Madison


The Angry Lurker said...

Nietzsche and Voltaire had it spot on.

Timeshadows said...

Nice artwork.
--Who did the second piece?

Only those with ears to hear...

Anonymous said...

The artist is Julie Heffernan. An evocative portrait on the inner state of being.

The subject (artist?) is carrying a world of flowers (burden or joy, depicting the "world of imagination" within?) while an half-hidden figure looks on.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with some of this, especially SJ, because:

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.

Authenticity is invaluble; Originality is non-existent. And don't bother concealing your thievery -- celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Goddard said, "It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.""

--Jim Jaramusch

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Imitation is not appropriating different elements from various sources to then combine these in different ways while constructing different works. In fact what you describe is the exact opposite.

"Originality" exists as a word due to understanding its meaning in relation to ages-old world thoughts and as derived from the human experiences that "originated" it. Your stance rejects the very essence of human thought upon this as deduced over the ages of time. In such a view as yours originality vanishes and is replaced by a mocked standardization. Thank goodness there are few like yourself who actually think like that. So too for the many inventions that fail before your idea, like the automobile, radio, ad infinitum, eh? In fact, "There's Nothing New Under The Sun," is one of the most strident lies perpetrated on the human race. I refer you to the last quote by James Madison.

Anonymous said...

"Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep." ~Samuel Johnson

Originality exists. It's just not as popular as it once was.

Copy something too much, you're a thief. If you can evolve it into something different, it's original.

If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.

Anonymous said...

Sorry lads, just a wind-up ;)

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

GW: "The artist is Julie Heffernan. ..."

Right you are (noted in the image name in fact).

She's quite an interesting sort.

I was going to do a small post on her in the future but as the "Cheshire Cat is out of the tree" and since "Every adventure requires a first step"... try this:


Anonymous said...

@Sean Willis: s'alright. Helps me burn off my extra caffeine.

@LotGD: Yes. She has some relevant thoughts on creativity:

"Anybody can teach technique, and I do want to teach it because I think learning this magic is really fun," she said. "But it's how to help people get in touch with their subject, their story, their uniqueness. That's worth teaching."

DHBoggs said...

Limitations of language and liguistic fundamentals of category organizations make it impossible to resolve issues of "originality". All things are both simultaneaously original and repetitve depending entirely on what quality is being observed. It is of far greater utility to speak of degrees on a continuum of difference rather than attempt to declare absolute parameters or instances of supposed originality, except perhaps on a personal level for personal reference.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...


While I agree with most of the points you make here and there, I most emphatically disagree with this take.

Following your logic, the invention of the light bulb is not original because of linguistic/perceptional barriers? As was the steam engine? The automobile?

I really don't get where you are coming from here.

Btw: I never expressed a formula for originality. I only stated that according to our predecessors from history that it exists and as well that it is defined in hundreds of lexicons which source history for their denotations. Originality has always been in greater part realized/expressed through the purview of
cultural experiences--breakthroughs in science, mechanics, etc. and as initially guided by those invested "communities" and/or attached academies or other institutions. Each culture has these; and the last time I looked it was up to each culture to maintain that reference for themselves and not a group claim or benefit, so I do not see this even by any stretch, even if it really mattered, as mult-cultural or multi-lateral. These two facets do not play into the concept except at those levels where two cultures cooperate in such industry, but that strays way from the point.

Here's to the invention of the fork for Western Civ and other cultures. It needn't to have replaced the chopsticks or the hands to be considered an original concept.

Mystic Scholar said...

Some very interesting thoughts and ideas. It certainly gives a person much to reflect upon.

And Rob? Don't forget to tell me about the ACME Gorilla Removal Service . . . when we meet. ;)

And FYI? I like the "deep end" you "swim" in Rob. Very nice.

DHBoggs said...

Probably is better explained by being less abstract and using one of your examples. Light bulb. To you this is an example of originality. Okay, then for you and others sharing your perspective that is "truth". From another viewpoint it might be seen as a variation on existing technology, or categorically identical to know objects. To a 1900's inuit, lets say, fresh from baffin isle, there is no qualitative difference or originality distinction between a gas light and an electric one, or for that matter, a good kerosene lamp. These are devices that make light. Hence, a light bulb is not original - from a certain culture/experience/structural level of significance perspective. An automobile may be seen as a carriage which people sit in to go from place to place- hence original from that viewpoint.

Its the age old story of the blind men describing the elephant.

The point being that abstract concepts of quality like originality or beauty or you name it depend upon agreed upon levels of granularity, viewpoint, and relative value assigned to a given aspect.

When all those are in harmony between individuals then what constitues originality (or beauty) will be agreed on. Otherwise, it's in the eye(s) of the Beholder....

DHBoggs said...

I like forks too ;)

Lord of the Green Dragons said...


The inversion of theory vs. argument is all semantical; in your case, the inverted argument as you have stated it in theory cannot be defeated, but by itself has been arranged so that it cannot. This is not truth. It is semantics.

I'll side with what cultures have pointed to as original and then pare it down from there. They have sufficed to date.



Lord of the Green Dragons said...

@Mystic Scholar:

Glad you found time to examine the ramblings of unoriginal people and their thoughts. ;)

The deep end seems to be getting shallower and shallower these days, depending on whether one is wearing bifocals or bottoms of beer bottles, the former's precursor, did you know?

I will be busy for the next day or so investigating the unoriginal technique of CPR; I have a suspicion that it derives from medieval combat where contestants bashed each other in the chest with maces... ;)

Welcome to Hysterical Junction, where you too can have a guided tour of your own basement...

Kenneth said...

"The inversion of theory vs. argument is all semantical; in your case, the inverted argument as you have stated it in theory cannot be defeated, but by itself has been arranged so that it cannot. This is not truth. It is semantics."

Way to dodge engagement with a thoughtful challenge.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

The challenge is semantical only. If one goes from electric to gas bulbs as being original, then the argument states that these are not, for they are then based off a previous form, like a torch.

Rather than troll here, just stay at HCs where you are welcome as his friend, OK?


Mystic Scholar said...

Thanks for the welcome, Rob.

And I'll give you a point of "argument" with me: I think you're about as "original" as them come, my friend.

Very glad to have "met" you, as it were. Look forward to meeting you at a Con sometime.

And FYI, I don't waste my time with semantics either.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

@Mystic Scholar:

Thanks for the pregnant compliment.

Yep. Using such logic (as argued above) gains to no proofs. In fact the very same immature model can be used to deconstruct any line of thought, even the challenger's perceived ends. It loops endlessly and is based on garnering no proofs (as historical precedents) but only in establishing that none exist by its implementation. I find it very nihilistic . Thank goodness that folks like this are not in charge of major think-tanks or technologies today, as we would soon be leveled off to a sameness on par with robots... Oh wait...!

DHBoggs said...

Kenneth wrote: Way to dodge engagement with a thoughtful challenge.

Nah, 'sokay. All viewpoints regarding abstract values have a legitimacy, and I don't see Rob's view as a dodge, it's more of a perspective. After all, there is indeed semantics (semiotic meaning) involved, as regards linguistic values, personal identity, and understanding and indeed the whole concept I outlined is wrapped around the core concept of multivocality. So I rather agree with Rob that we agree to disagree and don't see any need to parse out levels of agreement and disagreement or insist on repositioning. But... if anyone is interested in pursuing further some of what I've clumsily expressed, far richer discussions can be found in the work of cognitive anthropologists. Steven Mithien would be a contemporary and popular scholar in the field but Cognitive Linguist George Lakoff's Philosophy in the Flesh is probably the most interesting and relevant text (that I know of) in relation to the present discussion.

Aguilar Elliot said...

awesome quotes!