There is Nothing Left to Write

The ideas for the system of governance that I created and outlined in Tomorrow, as the Crow Flies are ones that go back to my high school days. I was very political at the time (not so much anymore), highly critical of democracies and their posturing (still am), and convinced that there must be a better way of doing things (again, still am). I remember writing a long essay on the topic on our old word processor (remember those?) and pushing it on a friend of mine whose opinions I respected, his comments being that he thought my analysis was right on but that my solution wouldn’t work. On that, who’s to say without trying? But I digress, for the point I wish to make here is that a few years later in university while reading Plato’s Republic I realized that my ideas were not nearly as original as I had initially assumed they were. My system is not Plato’s, and his is patently not mine (no one can really hold a candle to Plato), but the similarities are there and enough so that comparisons and cross-discussability are both possible. That old “It’s been done before” chestnut we all love to hear.

Has it all been done before? Qohelet thought so in the first millennium BCE; he was right then and he’s still right now. At this point in human history, and given the limitations in imagination we face due to the prescribed circumstances and milieus within which we live and therefore necessarily out of which we think (and speak and write), absolute originality is probably an impossibility, or anyway near enough to practically be one. Our minds are cloistered, and there is no escaping this fact of existence. Yet we write, and as we should for even within “It’s been done before” there is much room for creativity. It might be thought that I am contradicting myself here given my immediately preceding comments on originality, but creativity is not originality, and doing something in a unique way – based on one’s unique voice, experiences, life – is almost as inevitable as writing out of the cultural Zeitgeist one finds oneself immersed in, and for the same reasons. Were any of us to attempt a rewrite, dedication, riff, or updated version of X first done by Y in the year Z we would do it differently, and thereby express our creativity. In that there is a measure of originality bestowed, there’s no doubt about that, but it should be clear enough that assertions of pure originality would not hold water.

There is, finally, one more aspect to consider: The activities we engage in are meaning-making for us as individuals, they provide the foundation for a life lived, giving it also a particular structure and acting to shape the contours of the days one has on this good Earth. That essay I wrote in high school that only one person ever read and who didn’t have much to say on it? That was manifestly worth the investment I made in terms of both time and energy (and paper, ribbon ink, and electricity). Even if the thoughts hadn’t stayed with me over the years and been re-formed, transformed, into a much fuller accounting and placed within a book that runs the gamut of human being, the exercise would all the same have yielded value for the life and relationships I had then. Commonalities can always be found, but personally held and communicated values and the means by which they are articulated is something that only You – everyone of us “yous” – will ever be capable of, world without end. In thinking about some related themes in a post done about a year and a half ago, I put it that “we who write do not stand in the shadows of the greats but rather in their lineage.” I still agree with that, and still find every minute spent in writing as time extremely well used. Mind you, whether I would admit that when engrossed in a sweaty and frenzied keyboard-banging battle to find just the right words is another matter entirely.

 

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