Debate: Do Original Ideas Still Exist?

Ben Mixon and Mrs. Holland

Mrs. Holland and I discuss the existence of original ideas and their relevancy in society today.

Ben Mixon:

Some say there is no story or idea that has not been regurgitated or
remixed in some way. Anything YOU come up with that you think is cool has already been thought of, sorry. So should we give up on thinking of new ideas, just because there is more than likely something similar out there?

Before addressing the question of whether or nor original ideas exist,
the term “original” must be defined. According to the widely
appreciated and used Dictionary.com, “original” is something “new,
fresh, inventive, novel.” Or something “arising or proceeding
independently of anything else.”


Getting inspiration from something someone else made is not ripping it off. Being original means making ideas your own. For example, take
this article I’m currently writing. There has definitely been
discussion on the existence of original ideas in the past, but this is
my take on the subject, these are my words. In the moments of thinking and writing about this, I am original.

This applies similarly to any concept or idea. It doesn’t matter what
anyone else is thinking or making at the time, if you thought of it or
made it, it’s YOURS. I would go as far as to say that because every
human mind is different, EVERYTHING anyone comes up with is original, because every thought process is different. Unless of course someone is directly attempting to copy something. It’s all about intentions.

INTEND to put your own spin on things. INTEND to be “new, fresh,
inventive or novel”, and you will be.

Mrs. Holland

Man and society have battled for centuries. Man cries, “let me in, let me think, and let me be me!” Society strikes man and laughs: “come in, come in, and you’ll think about what I show you and be who I tell you.”

Let’s take a historical look at the absence of original thought.

Oral Culture

Before the fifth century B.C.E., critical thought did not exist. Everything man knew resulted from dialogue with other men. Man knew himself only as a member of a community – not as an independent self. The knowledge of independent thought did not exist, and what was said had been said before.

This changed when Plato taught men to conceive of themselves as autonomous: They could say and believe, as written in Eric A. Havelock’s Preface to Plato, “‘I am I, an autonomous little universe of my own, able to speak, think, and act in independence of what I happen to remember’” (200). This idea was revolutionary; but autonomy is not synonymous with originality.

Print Culture

This newly found autonomy led to the emergence of a print culture. Yes, printing presses disseminated information and made it accessible, but availability does not produce originality. The printers told the readers how to think. The managers of the press took control of the page and created traditions that we still follow. When we look at newspapers today, we hold them in the same way and read them in the same sequence as readers did in the 1500s. The layout of print on a page is essential to how the reading public approaches and processes information. As Walter Ong writes in Orality and Literacy, “The effects of print on thought and style has yet to be assessed fully” (120). Perhaps what we read not only tells us what to think – but how to think.

Digital Culture

Today, as we emerge from a print to a digital culture, dictators of thought and identity continue to evolve. For many of today’s teenagers, absence from creating their own identity begins as children when their parents post pictures of them on Facebook. Parents post pregnancy photos and continue posting through the years to create a child’s timeline. This digital identity has, in a way, preceded the child itself who, upon mature age, cannot erase this identity. We are what society has dictated us to become. We struggle to look at ourselves in the mirror and say I know you.

Past, Present, and Future Culture

Only He knows us.

King David sings to the Lord, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar . . . you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139:1-5).

David knows that he is the Lord’s. He knows that thoughts and life begin and end with God.

David’s son Solomon accepts this same truth when he compares God to the sea: “All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:7).

He continues, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).

 

God has equipped us with intelligent minds. He created us to think and to choose. We are called to work, build, and progress; God wants us to challenge our abilities and become our best selves in service to him. And in doing this, we know that He is the Alpha and the Omega.