Saturday, February 14, 2009

Am I Original?

After seeing, and writing about that quote on reading a few days ago, I started thinking about various words of wisdom we live by, and some of those quotable snippets you see at the beginning of a book or hear in a big speech. Why is it, if someone wise or famous once said something it is quoted for all eternity? Are we no longer able to think for ourselves? to come up with our own eternal truths?

Then I really started pondering, are the words I live by my own or did they come from someone else? I have heard it said no one could have a truly original thought. It may be new in that moment, but it was born from other knowledge and it is in fact just an evolution of ideas. So, does that mean every story has already been told and every poem already written? Will there ever be another truly new song or are they just updated versions of something that was sung a couple hundred years ago?

Many cultures believe we are born with innate knowledge; we already have the wisdom of our ancestors in our blood. I guess if birds can migrate to places they have never been and monarch butterflies can return to a place three generations later then it is possible we are born with some innate knowledge beyond how to breath and gain sustenance. Maybe, if we were not so culturally driven, we would be aware of this innate knowledge, but it is hard to know in the world today what we “know” and what we are taught.

I do know this, when I write, be it a story or poem or even a blog entry such as this, the combination of thoughts is new to me even if they are culled from the deep recesses of my mind or other sources.

So, as I ponder all of this and wonder “Why do I write if it is not original?” I realize it is not necessary to have new ideas, just as it is not necessary to know if my abilities are learned or innate, it is good to share what I know with those who might be inclined to listen (or read) and to keep learning. In the end, I realize that there are some worthwhile quotes out there, maybe even one or two appropriate for moments such as this.

Let me close with one I found yesterday:
“A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.” unknown


  1. We were asked the question "why do you write" in a workshop at a writing group that I used to attend. My answer is very simple. I write because I can't not write. I can no more not write than I can not breathe.
    I'm also very fond of quoting. I think that a pithy quote from someone (and it doesn't matter if they are famous) is a good way of getting your point across and can also act as a springboard for your own ideas.

    I'm often wary of attributions but Churchill is supposed to have said "It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read a book of quotations."

    I'd say for an educated one too.

  2. I think quotations are a useful tool if used sparingly. I see, however, far too many articles or blog entries that consist of quotation after quotation....and my immediate response is, "yes, but what do YOU think?".

    I think every writer should give themselves first and spice it sparingly with aged witticism (if necessary).

    But then:

    "Que sçais-je?" (What do I know?)"
    — Michel de Montaigne

  3. I love quotations, but I use them sparingly, unless I want to send up people who use them too often.

    "To impress a small fool, quote a greater fool. But to impress a great fool, just invent your own nonsense and pass it off as someone else's witticism."

    And, yes, you can quote me.