There is no such thing as originality.

Do excuse me for a minute as I get on to my soap box and try to explain why originality is the most obnoxious word in the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary dentition of the word originality is: “the ability to think independently and creatively.” The problem is that it’s impossible to think or create anything independently.

For one, originality, the act of being original, isolates the individual from any influence given by others and places the subject in question upon a pedestal for us to look at and admire. But that is not true; Einstein was not original; he was new. Galileo was not original; he was new. Shakespeare was not original; he was new. No one is original because we all take and are inspired by other ideas and works to create our own.

‘New,' where original does not, allows for there to be the acknowledgement that an idea or piece of work has developed from others. As humans we need reference points to learn; when we are born we are not automatically musicians, we learn to be. Lessons, the process of gaining new experiences and skills is the act of ‘Copying’. As infants, we copy to learn from our parents to gain the skills to speak. However, copying is not new. 

After we have copied to gain an understanding, there needs to be “Transforming” and“Combining.” Changing, altering and bringing together other ideas or pieces of work to create new, different and developed theories, music, art, film, literature, etc. An example of this in practice is the film The Matrix by The Wachowski brothers; a film that seems so good that it must be original is far from it. The film’s idea is based on that of a French theorist Jean Baudrillard and is extracted from his book “Simulacra and Simulations”. However the film itself, with all its slow motion and martial arts, is also not original. Inspired by Asian Cinema - Fist of Legend (1994), Drunken Master (1978), Tai-Chi Master (1993) as well as inspired by the Sci-Fi genre itself - Total Recall (1990) and Alice In Wonderland (1951).

So no one or no work is original but instead new. This does not degrade extraordinary achievements but instead emphasises them.It asks questions like who or what inspiredShakespeare to write “Romeo and Juliet.” It broadens our understanding of achievement and stretches it to show every avenue of great inspiration. As Isaac Newton famously said: 

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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Published first in Blue Planet, Issue 3  (July 2013).