Let’s admit it. High school math is boring–for the most part. That’s saying something, too, because I love math. I think it’s useful, fun, and occasionally beautiful. But math class is something else entirely.
(Does best ViHart impression)
So imagine you’re me, and your math teacher is rambling on and on about sin, cos, and tan, whatever those are, and you’re not paying attention because trigonometry is supposed to use sine, cosine, and tangent, so instead, you decide to write a poem, because why not, and you need an idea. You want it to be orginal, but not super avant-guardey, so it shouldn’t be completely abstract, but maybe the meter should be something new–then again, how do you invent a new meter? Is it even possible? Come to think of it, is making anything original possible, or is everything just old hat?
You decide this will be the topic of your newest epic, titled “Musings of a Very Bored Person on Originality.” So you start working on it, but the bell rings and now you find that you wish math class was longer, and that means you must be going crazy, so you just decide to finish it later.
After three more boring math classes, it’s finally done. It goes a little something, or exactly, like this:
Musings of a Very Bored Person on Originality
Novelty, though it’s valued so,
has many seeds of doubt to sow,
and asking whether what you’ve made
is unique will leave you frayed.
And every way you turn you’ll find
things just like what you had in mind.
You find your work seems it’s stencilled;
a waste of paint, actors, or pencils.
You feel like nothing good is there,
your efforts worthless loads to bear.
No one will like it so why not
give up now and burn all you’ve wrought.
But at that time a noise you hear,
an angry shout, someone is near.
They’re frustrated, mad as they pace,
and when they turn, you see their face.
They look convinced beyond all doubt
that what they’ve made is but a bout
of dullness, drollness, nothing new.
They’re here to burn it, just like you.
Upon closer inspection you
discover that what they want to
burn is indeed a wond’rous thing.
You tell them so; they’re listening.
Eventually you hear their voice.
They thank you for making the choice
to praise the cause they thought was lost,
for luck, that caused your paths to’ve crossed.
“For I,” they say “was quite about
to burn my work, to throw it out,
but you offered me a reason,
to keep it for another season.”
“And now thanks to your kindly word,
My awful doubts have been answered
with assurance, though brief it be,
that my work is unique, unseen.”
“Before my work appeared as fluff
to me, a mess of others’ stuff
hazardly rearranged to seem
as if it came from my own dreams.”
“But now I see that while it takes
little bits from others’ makes,
and while it is a true hodge-podge,
all of art’s a sort of collage.”
Now it has been many years since I
have gone a way that passes by
the place where I met that fellow
who thought to try to let dreams go.
And it wasn’t only him that
Gratefully tipped the other his hat
As both of us a lesson learned,
walked away; no works were burned.
Because in the end nothing’s new.
Not completely, at least that’s true,
But don’t let it discourage you
In reality it’s a boon.
Nothing now is original
in source material at all.
Making something novel’s mirage;
Focus instead on your collage.