Sunday, July 01, 2007

Making stuff up

"In darkness we are born; in darkness we die."
"The past is the past. We need to know it; but we don't have to live there."

I have a big file full quotes and wise or not-so-wise saying. The two lines above aren't from that file. The first is something I muttered in the darkness of a flight of stairs leading to the street from our dojo one night. The second is from Tethys, uttered by 'Naela' in a conversation with 'Mac'.

The first went as it went because I started muttering something, almost to myself, though half-ways to someone else there. That was the "in darkness we are born" part—and don't ask me why I said it. Sometimes one just says stuff. The second part came naturally. It just kind of fit.

The person who heard me say it asked me where that 'came from'. I claimed that the point of origin was my head, which said person duly disbelieved. Surely, somebody must have said something like that before. It sounds so...wise? Profound?

Well, it's crap, let's face it. For while we are born out of darkness, in the sense that we emerge from a womb that is mostly light-shielded into what is usually the light of day or fluorescents or candles or something, we certainly do not, by any compulsion, die in darkness. We may die into darkness, but that's the 'correct' way of saying this—if say something one must.

The second saying is just another version of the much more terse and pithy "look back, but don't stare", but it was much more fitting to the context for Naela to say it as she did.

The point of all this?

Several:

One, just because something sounds profound or cool, doesn't mean it's not crap.

Two, people do make up things that sound profound or cool at the spur of the moment, and it doesn't mean they read it somewhere.

Three, everything profound has already been said or written down by someone. The question is, when you say it or think it, is that because you've read/heard it somewhere or because you actually thought of it? That is the measure of what is known as 'originality'.

Four—and this is just for the person who thought I'd plagiarized that line—just because a lot of people quote stuff, possibly mangled and deliberately paraphrased, and pretend or actually believe that it's original to them, that doesn't mean that everybody is thus inclined or disposed. Live with it. It happens.

And that's all for today. The new Standoff review (Episode 0115: Lie to Me) is coming up—once I've had a chance to actually watch it. And with the good news from the last blog, I also suddenly felt compelled to do another proof-read of at least two books that I knew needed proofing. Much to my dismay I found them riddled with typos. I am incredibly grateful to the reviewer for not having commented on that. Or else s/he didn't spot them and/or found the story so fascinating that the imperfections didn't matter. Now I would regard that as a truly great compliment indeed.

2 comments:

Alex said...

Hey wow, look at this, I made it into your blog!

Now about that misrepresentation of what I said in response to the 'darkness' tag line. Whether or not I did so, I didn't mean to accuse you of plagiarism or imply that you can't come up with a profound quip without having plagiarised it. I asked where it came from because I was sure I recognised it from somewhere.

(Incidentally, it is possible to subconsciously plagiarise a quote.)

Finally, said quote is indeed - generally speaking - a misrepresentation of the facts. But it could be taken as a metaphor - from the womb we are born into the unknown, from this world we die, and get born into another unknown. If you like.

Till said...

Yes, but then it would have to say "Into darkness we are born and into darkness we [go when we] die." But I didn't say 'into' but 'in'. I remember that clearly, which make the statement crap. Ah, well, perfection eludes us all.