Monday, November 3, 2008

Does originality exist in this world?

Or are we living in a world of plagiarism and undetected plagiarism?

The dictionary defines originality as “ability to think or express oneself in an independent and individual manner; creative ability; freshness or novelty, as of an idea, method, or performance.”

I am a die-hard optimist who sincerely believes in the greatness of the human race but the question from my mom yesterday, “Does originality exist in this world?”, left me baffled. I had no clear answer. I look around, trying hard to find one instance of originality. I cannot. Have we exhausted our distinguishing characteristics as human beings – innovation and uniqueness? When was the last time you witnessed the power of independent thought and constructive imagination?

I still cannot tell originality from innovation. Not sure if these are different. I try to argue with myself an original way of thinking is as original as an original thought but I end up tying myself in knots! I am beginning to believe that Originality is Dead. The original thought or the first instance of creation, that unique moment where all potential existed is lost.

We are living in a world of remakes, plagiarisms and inspirations (basically where the copyrights can be violated legally). From the Anu Malik and Pritam numbers to Hollywood copies in Bollywood; from the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharat retold and repackaged by the B.R. Chhopras to Ekta Kapoors and Sooraj Bharjatyas. And no, am not being harsh on us Indians or Bollywoodians. Even the so called virtuosos of Indian Classical, Western Rock and what not genres of music accept the fact that the seven notes of music can create only so many permutations and combinations and that those may have already been exhausted by the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. Forget the more obvious spaces of music and movies where it is too easy to substantiate arguments of intended and unintended copies.

Picture this, a teacher asks a class of 6 year olds to think of a story on their own. One kid comes up with a story that talks about a brother and sister who get lost in the woods and encounter many adventures on their way including deep dark woods, a witch living in a chocolate house. The child has never read Hansel and Gretel before but is this original thought or influenced by some other version of the story told? Even if this story has not been told to the kid in any form, the fact that the story existed before he thought of it takes away the originality? How do I distinguish between what is original, copied, influenced or inspired?

Is there a possibility of original thought when the minute we are born, even before we develop our faculty to think, information is fed into our systems continuously - a horse is a horse, the sun is the sun, the color red is red. Do we get a chance to cultivate originality; what is originality anyway?
Is originality then overrated? Is there nothing original to create? Do we rather reorganize and use instances of creation to present that instance in an infinite number of combinations?

…And is this a thought that has been thought before and therefore not my own, not original?

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