Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Heresy of Originality.

Surreal - Jimmy Ernst

There's an odd notion in modern literature that the product of imagination has to be original. That it has to be completely and absolutely unlike anything that ever came before it. Most writers seem to take it for granted that to be a really good writer they have to be original. This article is basically about saying this idea is exaggerated at best and at worst, a dangerous idea that the writer should avoid.

Now let me first be clear what I mean by originality. I'm not talking about creativity or imagination here. Now let me take a minute to distinguish the two. Because the two often get confused. People think that being original means being creative when that's not necessarily the case. When people usually criticize a plot for not being original they usually really mean it suffers from a lack of creativity. The author didn't put enough thought or effort into the story.

Often nowadays, intellectual laziness is called 'lack of originality' but this is a dangerous choice of words. Now I realize this is a rather bold claim to make so let me explain to you why.

See Christian thought has no concept of originality. This is true across the board for almost all Churches and denominations. Every group in the Church has ... since time immemorial held that Sacred Truth comes through God given Revelation. From outside the mind. The Christian concept of truth is something outside ourselves, to be discovered and to be trusted in. We can gain deeper access to truth, through study of scriptures and through science. But we don't generate truth. We are receptors of truth. The closest we come to actually generating truth if our actions, and even then our actions are subject to some authority. Either Christ or Sin.

However, secular thought is different. Especially Postmodern thought. The Postmodern sees Truth as something that comes from within. That's why in a Postmodern culture 'Originality' is something to be valued. Taking information from God or Science is seen as inferior to one's own subjective ideas. The Culture doesn't want truth. It wants Originality. Something new and spontaneous. See, secular postmodernism views humans as Gods, it believes they have the power to do something that is restricted only to the Divine. To Create something truly original.

This has no place in Christian thought or Christian writing. Yes we should endeavor to be creative. But our main work is sub-creation and not God-like original Creation. We are just mixing and matching stories and the world around us into different. We're like a child playing with building blocks that Our Father Created. We can mix and match, but the power to create the truly Original is beyond us.

Honestly. The only thing that is original ... is sin.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm... Very interesting and thought-provoking post. Isn't there a difference, though, between copying fellow man's work, and copying God's work? I feel like most people refer to the former when they talk about originality in a book, while we definitely ought to be pursuing the latter...

    Good post.