Skip to main content

BE YUNEEK

Last week was my mother's birthday. Listening as the steady stream of Happy Birthday messages came in - first her friend Maria, then her sister Gail, then finally my grandmother called to sing her that oh so familiar song - my first thought was, how sweet. Then I couldn't help but think, how derivative! Who on their birthday has not picked up the phone to someone singing happy birthday (usually off-key, and often rushing to the end or leaving the song unfinished)? Who has not sung it herself? You say it's just the thing people do. But when did this singing to each other begin? Or like so many other things, did some pioneer first break into tune on a friend's day of all days and a tradition was born for a string of copiers to follow?

In the good book Gone Girl, the protagonist has a secret joke with her husband, Nick, about how everything is derivative. Even saying everything is derivative is itself derivative because someone else has said it before you. There is nothing new under the sun. A phrase that is also unoriginal. Oy vey!

In the movie Good Will Hunting, about troubled math whiz and genius Will Hunting (expertly played by Matt Damon in a script he wrote with Ben Affleck), love interest Skylar suggests they go out for coffee. Will's reply: "Maybe we could get together and eat a bunch of caramels. When you think about it, it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee."


Does it take a genius to see through the routines of life and offer an alternative that's not so run of the mill? Or must we all to some extent be carbon copies of each other? It seems we live in a world of memes and they spread like wildfire. Just as Keanu. photo motivator77b3a8ea53e7c018100c175fdeee88b7c3a48c4d.jpg

TV and other mass media, the Internet especially, make this phenomenon even worse, propagating figures of speech and customs and dress codes which the audience views, talks about and then emulates. Listen closely to the next conversation you have and watch how clichés get tossed back and forth like a hot potato (this itself is a cliché).

Never has the world been so overpopulated, and yet never have we as a culture become so homogeneous. The great film Lost in Translation makes fun of this when it has movie star Bill Murray travel to Japan to shoot a whiskey commercial during which he is urged by the Japanese director to make like Roger Moore in 007. In the Japanese's mouth the "Roger" comes out like "Lodger."

The East has been Westernized. But it goes both ways. I too now know how to dance Gangnam Style.


How to be original? Is the trick living in a bubble? Avoiding all things cliché, either popular media or social functions (in which everyone behaves like sheep)? Or is the trick simply being conscious of how easy it is to be unoriginal, and taking a little extra effort to say or do something unique?

I'd like to end this by urging you to be original. But since such an injunction is itself unoriginal, let's use a less common alternative and say this: Be without precedent. Or even better: Be your own precedent. Be Paradigm. Even more unconventional: Be Paradime.

Saying such a thing, and acting accordingly, we are if not the first then among the chosen few to live with originality. That's something worth singing about.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SOUL CYCLE

This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …

EVERYTHING'S INTENTIONAL

There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…

GRAY MATTERS

I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…