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Imitation and Originality


We’ve all heard the expression: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I believe, in most cases imitation has little to do with flattery. It’s mostly just a lack of imagination. The key to life is to remain true to yourself, while seeking higher ground. There must be equal amounts of intelligence, knowledge, and originality, if you are to rise above…

The problem is, many young people today confuse eye-popping bizarre with originality. The concept of originality is based on quality, and unique thought, not freakish appearance or outlandish behavior. These outlandish people are trading character and quality for notoriety and celebrity. Let me put this in basic terms, because this is important, and I want everyone to get this: You can tattoo your entire body with red ink, dye your hair blue, and pierce your ears with horseshoes. But while you may have raised the level of attention you’re getting, you haven’t raised the level of admiration or the appreciation of your character one iota. That is done by having a unique mind or a true talent, and it’s accomplished with dedication and effort, not cavalier mentality and circus sideshow acts.

The trick to life is to seek inspiration while avoiding becoming a cheap imitation – to be an individual or perhaps an enigma, without becoming so complex you’re confusing to yourself and to others.

The writer Mary Astell once said,” “In ignorance and a narrow education lay the foundation of vice, while imitation and custom shore it up,” which leads me to the second part of this essay – social intimidation and imitation.

In our country today (and other countries where violence is prevalent and growing), sometimes imitation is little more than self-preservation. In our school systems and inner cities, a “pack mentality” has emerged, and imitation of the fiercest and the cruelest has become necessary for survival. The greatest example I can offer is this “baseball hat on backwards” concept. I don’t believe more than a handful of people really ever felt this was “cool”, let alone practical – I mean, for God’s sake, there’s a purpose for the brim on that hat! Otherwise we all might as well be wearing “beanies.”

But in big city school systems (and beyond) where cool is integrated with intimidation, and fashion is dictated, not suggested, this backwards hat thing became avant garde. Every time I see some upper class suburbs kid in his baggy pants and hat on backwards, I want to grab him and remind him that the only times real Americans wear their hats on backwards are when they’re sighting their sniper rifles in combat, or playing the position of catcher in a baseball game. The rest are just social copycats – letting someone else tell them what is cool. I’m reminded of the words of the English writer, Samuel Johnson: “No man was ever made great by imitation.”

Move away from imitation, and seek innovation. Be yourself – because, as everyone knows, an original is worth more than a copy.

The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ownership and staff of The Polk County Pulse. Michael Reisig is a freelance writer and published author whose works are reproduced throughout the globe.

One comment

  1. I used to wear my baseball cap backwards on occassion………………….but I was the catcher.

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