Originality Died . . . a Long Time Ago

Posted on September 16, 2011


Something has hit me recently: I’ve been reading a LOT of really interesting posts on Freshly Pressed as of late. I think most of my inspiration to write on certain topics has spurred from reading someone else’s thoughts. I can’t help but appreciate learning so many new things, or reading someone else’s perspective, or being newly introduced to an idea I never considered. It’s a big reminder that originality is ceasing to exist in our world anymore. We rely on inspiration and past ideas and the thoughts of other people to constantly reinvent ourselves and our ideas. We worship that which we consider original, but it’s really only original to us. This reminds me of a quote that I read . . . not from a book, but from one of my Facebook friend’s notes. *Go figure*

“It is rare to find a man who believes his own thought or who speaks that which he was created to say. Nothing is more rare in any man than an act of his own. Every man is a borrower and a mimic, life is theatrical and literature a quotation.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

This reminds me that possibly the greatest originality we humans can claim are ourselves. When we stop trying to fit into other people’s molds, stop convincing others that we’re *really* different, stop trying so hard to be this, or that, and decide that being ourselves is more than enough, we fight being an imitation or someone who conforms. There is only one you. But perhaps the problem with this thought is that many of us not only do not know who we are, but we also don’t know how to figure ourselves out. Thus, imitation and conformity set in, and we define ourselves based off our current favorite movies, our libraries, our favorite colors and our personal styles. Material claims only a surface definition of people. What you think, why you say what you say and do what you do, character – these our the defining qualities. When there isn’t a book or older, wiser person to inform us, we’re faced with decisions, and in the end, it’s usually not our decisions, but our reactions to the outcomes of those decisions that reveals to others the type of person we are.

I think the unfortunate part of being original, of being yourself, is that today’s world has adopted a form of pride in having strong opinions. It doesn’t matter who you tick off, or how you say certain things, because it’s YOUR opinion, because you think for yourself. And that’s great. It really is. But we often leave common courtesy at the door because our big, original opinions weigh us down.

In a world where imitation is considered the highest form of flattery, I shouldn’t try distinguish myself  from the world and from those around me, but focus on being myself. I feel like I’m often fighting with friends who are dying to separate their opinions from mine. It’s never OK to think the same thing, to feel the same way, to view something similarly, because that would mean “I’m not thinking for myself.” I personally think nothing is farther from the truth than trying to be different just to be disagreeable, just to be different, just to have a different opinion. Since when is it a bad thing to share an opinion with someone else? People often can’t distinguish the one from the other; that is, being different from being yourself. The former requires that you actively pursue different ideas with the end goal of being different. The latter may look a lot like conformity in the end, but close speculation will reveal a uniqueness: self-identity, that at its core, is not dependent on the opinions of others differing or agreeing with your opinions, but that what you think, what you say, what you believe, and who you are has never been a battle of comparison, but a choice to believe something free of all motivations regarding other people.

That is what I strive for, and that is what I hope for. I might not want to be just like everyone else, and I may not want to stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd. But I don’t want to not be a certain way just because someone else does or doesn’t want to. I want to be myself and make decisions for myself, not for other people.