The Burden of Originality

Apparently when she wasn’t talking about the lifestyle benefits of eating cake, Marie Antoinette pointed out that “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten”.
The woman had a point.
In the world of art, in particular, the notion of originality is one that is lauded above all else and perhaps rightly so, given its increasing rarity. Maybe it is our desire for originality that causes something of a dilemma in our lives. Is it even possible? Perhaps it is a part of the human condition to think that it is; we need originality to give life a purpose beyond simply existing.
Plagiarism is the dirty word of academia, the fear of every third level student is that what they believed to be their original thought has actually previously been someone else’s. There’s little more disappointing than that feeling, it’s like the moment you arrive at a party only to be deflated when someone else is sporting the exact same outfit as you. Or when somebody on Dragon’s Den turns up with the prototype of that multi-million idea of yours that you never got around to patenting. Devo.
Every so often, the issue of plagiarism also arises in the music industry. Sometimes rightly so but at other times I wonder whether listeners are being excessively critical of the slightest similarities. It’s all well and good to put down a copycat but with only 12 notes and a limited number of chords it is surely inevitable that some pieces will be somewhat derivative.
Being  “alt” was a trend that ended up inverting its own meaning, as most seem doomed to, simply because it was a trend. Popularity, it would appear, is the arsenic of originality.
The first time I became aware of my own insignificance was when I looked down at a shrinking aerial view of Ireland from the comfort of a plane seat and saw houses upon house but could not spot my own. I wondered how many other people in the world were going about their lives- thinking and talking about the same things that I was thinking and talking about- and that troubled me. Our generation has been raised to believe that we are special, that we are destined for success. However, now that it’s easier than ever to closely follow the movements of those around us, surely I am not the only one sitting behind my computer screen, questioning what it is that supposedly sets me apart?
 So we continue on until that thing that makes us one in a million (still not wholly original out of a world of roughly 7 billion, but sure look) dawns on us.
Until that moment of clarity, there’s always comfort in the phrase “Great minds think alike”.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t keep trying for originality, I’m just saying that we are not snowflakes, we are people. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

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