If John Lennon was hard on other people, he was harder on himself. But he was never Nowhere Man. Today it’s his radiant honesty that’s remembered, a shining sincerity that sometimes got him into trouble but more often – and especially since the senseless tragedy of his early death – won the much longer battle of hearts and minds.
Lennon’s originality lay, I think, in his capacity to touch a raw nerve. There was no formula, no going through the motions. His music always retained an improvised edge.
Lesser artists are often shameless crowd-pleasers. The great ones are themselves usually their own toughest audience. They lead rather than follow taste because what they give us has come through such rigorous quality testing. And the most important quality is authenticity.
Is it too far-fetched, I wonder, to compare artistic originality with escapology – the evasion of constraints to liberate the self from chains or, to push the analogy, from convention? And if there’s any magic, perhaps it’s in the sudden realisation of freedom. Truth is the touchstone.
Good news, then, you don’t have to come up with anything new! Let’s stay in the 19th century for confirmation of this.
Nietzsche once said that, without music, life would be unimaginable. Time perhaps to consult a musician …
Nifty link, huh, even though all I did was type Originality into Google Images?
Another comparison comes to mind, originality and alchemy – the transformation of base metal into gold. If that seems too supernatural, consider the miraculous implications behind this next idea.
We may not be original but what we do can be. New writers are often given the following piece of advice.
After all, it’s one of life’s truisms that we can only ever start from where we are. Duh! But, as so often, Philip Larkin comes to the rescue.
Ah, takes me back to those ‘possibilities of being’ that were the plus side of Pirandello’s ‘multiple identities’! Perhaps you remember them from Something New #1? And let’s cheer ourselves up some more with a photograph and a playful comment from the person who took it.
Playfulness is another facet in the jewel that is originality. I play with my granddaughter and marvel at how she naturally and instinctively incorporates whatever happens to be lying around in the creative games we play together. She connects me to my younger self like a bolt of lightning links heaven and earth.
Striking image, eh? 😉 And speaking of striking images, how about this one?
The trouble with the visual image, though, is that it can’t really capture the inner nature of an abstract concept like originality. Surface not substance, pose instead of profundity. (Enough alliteration already. Ed.)
Ah well, let’s plough on …
Playing with whatever I find online is fun, though I usually try to acknowledge my sources. Too many to list here but just this once I’ll risk the lawsuits in the interests of, er, art or whatever!
More seriously, a general point emerges – however original people are, or try to be, they should always credit their guiding influences. And as my WordPress friend Curt Mekemson put it: Creativity emerges from clashing ideas.
I would venture to add that the most vital motivation is a moral imperative – put simply, we care. Which brings me to my final sequence of images.
Luigi Pirandello wasn’t wrong about mutual incomprehension and multiple identities and the clash of vibrant life with inert forms, structures or templates. But William Blake’s law of contraries holds that every negative contains its own positive – much as the Buddhist higher worlds (Learning, Compassion, Realisation) are said to emerge from the lower worlds (Hunger, Anger, Animality, Humanity) – a source of much comfort and no little inspiration to me.
Turns out there’s light at the end of every tunnel.
Oh, and don’t get me started on Tribute Bands … deep breath, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 …
Ah, that’s better! I’ll end this circuitous exploration with somebody way beyond imitation …