There Are No New Thoughts

How liberating to know there are no new thoughts!  Everything we ponder has been pondered before.  Think about it.

Barring great pioneers such as Albert Einstein, the rest of us should not expect to bring brand new knowledge into the world.  New collections of ideas maybe, but not new ideas themselves. We all borrow or steal ideas from each other as a matter of course.  This is the way of it – across time and across the human condition.

Both Byron Katie and Elizabeth Gilbert discuss this topic in their work.  “There are no new stressful thoughts,” Katie says.  Gilbert agrees: creative work consists of recycled and re-purposed thoughts uniquely brought together.  We are not working with new materials here, people.

So, why would the idea of “no new thoughts” be liberating and not depressing?

Because it takes the pressure off.  If we are trying to be *totally original,* then we miss the opportunity to enjoy creativity itself.  Who planted the idea in our collective psyche that in order to have worth we need to make new discoveries?

Have you ever wanted to write a piece of music or sing a song, but stopped yourself before you ever put down a note?  Because you knew it wasn’t going to be “original?”  (yeah, me too.  we all do it.)

But, that thinking doesn’t make sense.  What’s the purpose of being creative?  It’s to experience being creative!  By embracing that there is nothing new under the sun, you are suddenly free to . . . create, or teach, or even . . . love.

We can also take a great deal of comfort knowing we are not alone.

Let’s use voice teaching as an example.  Justin Petersen writes a blog on historical pedagogy that angles to show how, on some level, nothing much has changed.  He loves hunting down historical texts on voice pedagogy, and observing them through a modern lens.  Guess what?  They were saying the same things about voice and voice teaching we say today.  Again, no new ideas.

For all the voice teachers in the house who feel alone, confused, and adrift in their teaching practices, I guarantee you are experiencing the same things voice teachers have experienced across time.  The voice is complex and mysterious.  We could all stand to read up on what the ancient Greeks had to say about voice, as well as leaf through modern science journals and method texts.

Justin offered me a great piece of advice the other day – for every modern book, read 3 old ones.  And if you don’t have time for that, at least one old book for each new.

Anne Karpf’s research on The Human Voice reveals that Greek vocalists utilized three different kinds of teachers.  One each for resonance, intonation, and inflection.  Again, all concepts of voice training we drool over today.  And again, nothing new.

May this post allow you to enjoy thinking the same thoughts that have pervaded human consciousness across time.
May you feel relief knowing you are not alone.
May you let go of trying to “be original” and just enjoy being!


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1 Comment

  1. I really like what you’re saying here. I wonder if the desire to be original might be driven by thinking we will get love by appearing better than others. Being original isn’t hard to achieve if the value of the result doesn’t matter.

    Originality can only found in yourself, because you are infinity original. Wanting to be original is only the concern about how others see you, and there’s nothing original in that.

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