The Importance Of Not Being Original

Some things are worth saying over and over again. I’m sure that’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating. At our house, we said  “sit down” and “eat your food” so often that my wife started saying those phrases in Irish, just to break the monotony. Still, we knew that saying it over and over again was the only way to get to the point of not having to say it over and over again.

But there are some things we’ll never get to that point with. There are some things that will need to be said as long as there are people on Earth. The reason for this is that us humans tend to forget basic truths almost as soon as we remember them. We work and fight and kill each other to right some horrible wrong like genocide, oppression, or slavery, then turn around and create new ways of doing the exact same things, like abortion, police brutality, or human trafficking. Each victory bleeds into a new battle, where we have to say the same old truths all over again, like “all people are valuable” and “all men are created equal”.

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Googling Wisdom

Where I grew up we called the library “Fort Book” because it looked like it would stand up well in a siege. Inside, there were rows of filing cabinets housing the card catalogue – one card for each book, organised precisely in deep drawers. If I wanted to learn something, those cards were the indexes of knowledge. Now they’re gone. Now the catalogue cabinets of the world have squeezed themselves into a little bar at the top of the screen in my hand. Getting information has never been easier. No other era of history has had the power I carry in my little glowing rectangle. It’s overwhelming. And it’s easy to assume that having access to humanity’s storehouse of knowledge should make me wise. 

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The Joke I Should Have Laughed At

Saying that I knew it all along was a lie, and they knew it. Saying that I was just playing along didn’t stop their eyes from laughing at me. I would have laughed, too, if I were them. I should have laughed, too, with them. I don’t know where my neighbour got the iron pyrite, all I know is the story they told me about finding it in the woods and do you think there’s more and will we all be rich? I’d never seen gold ore before, but it certainly looked the part. I was old enough to know the stories about children finding treasure, and young enough to forget that I was a fool. 

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Do Great Minds Really Think Alike?

I’ve said it many times, as an automatic reflex. Just like “bless you” after a sneeze or “you’re welcome” after a “thank you”, the phrase “great minds think alike” rolls off the tongue naturally whenever two people have a similar idea. It’s a friendly way of complimenting others and ourselves simultaneously, a verbal pat on the back for being mutually great. It’s a bit of fun. But that doesn’t make it true.

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