Plagiarism and validation

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Noun: plagiarism:  the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
Sometimes when I’m about to write about a particular idea, I will look at quotes on the subject. Not to use either the quote or the idea, but to spark ideas from them and follow where they might lead. Ideas come from many sources and while most of them seem to self-generate, there is every possibility that they originated somewhere else. Something you have seen, heard or read may have been incubating for years before it comes to the surface, reshaped and repackaged, with a relevance that is all your own. Indeed, unless you are deliberately plagiarising the work of another, you can say that it is your own. How else do we learn but by taking in what life offers and allowing our own mind and heart to work their alchemy?

Am I plagiarising the great poets when I use two words that rhyme, just because they have been used before? Or stealing the work of the creators of the alphabet when I rearrange their letters and write a book? There are only  very small number of letters after all; we are bound to string them together in a way that has already been done. If we are going to take things to their logical conclusion, existence itself is plagiarism. Whatever the creative force of existence is seen to be…scientific, religious or spiritual… there is a point of origin somewhere between non-being and being and, whatever its nature, the copyright of that particular creative Work must begin there. No matter how you look at any part of the world and seek to recreate it artistically, no matter what medium you may use… or by what name or image you know its origin… everything we know bears the same stamp… copyright © God.

That means we are all guilty of plagiarism when we seek to capture or reflect the beauty and character of the world around us. We choose to call it by another name…inspiration… yet the principle is the same, we take something from another source and, passing it through the filter of our own gifts and being, call it our own.

There is a darker side, though, to the way we appropriate and shape ideas that have originated in a mind other than ours.

I was looking back at old family school reports today. You could see the progression of child to teenager reflected in the comments, see how external events had affected the inner life and attitude of the child…and see where encouragement, rather than criticism, might have produced a more positive change. There was one particular teacher I came up against, in defence of one of my sons. He had just started at the ‘big school’, days after the death of my partner and had taken a keepsake into school with him against the rules. She confiscated it, telling him to collect it after school, which was fair enough. Then she went home, forgetting about it.
She was a teacher of French and that was where it all went wrong. I went in the next day. She chose to put discipline before compassion and, in front of my grieving son, said she did not care what the circumstances were…
I am fluent in French, having lived in France for many years. I believe my vocabulary was more than adequate for the occasion.
The fallout, though, was that regardless of excellent results, neither of my sons ever received a good report from her. They were always written from the perspective of, ‘he must do exactly as I say’. In one short entry, ‘he must’ featured over twenty times and the tone was that of an absolute dictator who brooked no deviance from her will. That may have been just her manner… but my sons never felt they did well enough for her and eventually stopped trying.

From our earliest days, we learn from others, taking in their opinions and understanding of the world. We unconsciously allow them to shape the way we too see the world and, crucially, how we see ourselves. As children, we seek approval from our parents and teachers, by trying to align our image of ourselves with theirs. We try to fit their vision of who we should be, before we are old enough to form a vision of our own. As we grow older and begin to question what we have learned, instead of forming something new as our idea of self, we measure ourselves against our perception of their vision.

They are the first to teach us self-discipline and we try to learn how to comply, not always knowing how… or we start to rebel. At neither stage are we likely to reach the high standards set by those who care enough to try to teach us, as the bar is constantly being raised as we grow. Consequently, we may face adulthood with an inner conflict between the natural confidence of youth and the nagging feeling of never quite measuring up to expectations that eats away at that confidence. We have learned to take others’ ideas as the yardstick by which we measure ourselves. In effect we are plagiarising their ideas and presenting them to the world as our ‘own work’…and we may even believe it to be true. We set out into the world unconsciously seeking validation in the eyes of others instead of in the heart of ourselves. Yet we are not reflections of other people and their opinions, even though they may shape our perception of ourselves… What we are is ourselves.

If you were to believe that I told a I lie…and I believed I had told you the truth, who would be right and who wrong? We could debate that for as long as we liked, but one thing that would remain untouched by perception or opinion is the truth. Whatever it is…and regardless of how, or even if, we could see it, the truth would not change any more that the essence of who we are changes because of the judgement of others. Our behaviour or theirs may change… but who we truly are remains.

By relying on the reflection of ourselves that we see in the eyes of others, we cannot learn who we truly are or who we have the potential to become. The first maxim of the Mysteries is ‘Know Thyself’….and that means more than just skimming the surface or accepting the perception of others. To acknowledge our strengths as well as our weaknesses, to allow our gifts as well as the inevitable flaws… to see the shining core of being that resides at the heart of every one of us, as pure and untainted as the heart of a child….and to allow it to grow.

When I looked at the quotes associated with the ideas for this post, I saw one that said ‘Validation is healing: surround yourself with those who validate you’. I do not agree. That validation can only come from within, when we can see that we are more than either our reactions or our reflections…when we can accept the perceptions of others, but not automatically condemn ourselves by them…and when we can learn to act from that clear space within that knows who we are.


17 thoughts on “Plagiarism and validation

  1. A lovely post, Sue. I was always a bit of a complex character at school and wasn’t as open and easy going as some of the other girls. Some of my teachers were prepared to take a bit of time to discover who I was and some just pushed me aside. I had a few comments on reports that I have always remembered [and which a teacher would never, ever write now days]. They were “Generally speaking, Robbie, is generally speaking” and much worse “Robbie looks like an angel but she has rusty wings and a black halo”. Did you ever?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t really understand why anyone would plagiarise someone else’s work. Where would be the sense of achievement in that? Where most teachers fall down, is not accepting that we are all original, and all the rules and punishments in the world will never change that…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. To draw inspiration from another’s work and make it into something of your own is, I think, a compliment of high degree. To simply claim it as your own is a different matter and I can see no point in it either…unless you are so hungry for glory or money that reality goes out of the window.
      I don’t think your second comment applies specifically just to teachers… legislating for the majority may be a practical necessity, but it doesn’t really work for individuals.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Very well put. As a start, discounting science and other hard sciences for the moment, almost all ideas are compounds of other ideas. One of the brilliant things about being PEOPLE is that we can take idea 1, grab onto idea 2, and out comes idea 3 which is a NEW idea that is a compounding of two existing ideas. Of COURSE we can’t create ideas out of nothing. If you go to extremes on that, we’d have to start by inventing language and an alphabet first and move on from there.

    The joy of humanity is to take our intelligence and let it soar. We are not in a “soaring” time at the moment, but I’d like to think that we’ll get there, again, and I hope very soon.

    Really beautiful writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Marilyn… and agree. That is a real beauty that we can make these infinite combinations of ideas and perspectives and create something new from something old. In a time where ‘upcycling’ and recycling are all the range, it seems a bit ironic that doing the same with ideas should be sueable 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I look at it this way. There is nothing new in the world. We keep reworking the tried and true, the old, the only ideas available to us. Our personal filters make the ideas new again because they come from our individual sense of the world around us.
    I do not understand how plagiarism gives a feeling of accomplishment.
    BTW, that teacher WAS a dictator and wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that is the real beauty of ideas, Tess, that we CAN reshape and rework them, putting our own unique perspective forward to shed an extra dimension of light and understanding on an old idea.
      (As for the teacher, the look of horrified shock on her face when I spoke my mind in ‘her’ superior language is a memory I cherish 😉 ) x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another thoughtful post, Sue. I recently came upon a horrifying form of plagiarism. It seems if you have the money, you can pay someone to write your college papers for you, which you then pass off as your own. These folks graduate with false degrees and go into the workforce with hollow credentials. Which ‘professionals’ around you are of this ilk? It’s a scary thought!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My Dad said, “Nothing new under the sun – you bring your perspective, your twist, to what has come before, but nothin new – ” – – I had teachers like the above – – I battled teachers like the above for my sons – when they gave up and said, “Yes mom, okay for you to go in, though I know I’ll pay for it, sooner or later….” – LOL But yes, I’ve finally realized the reason I push myself so hard is in hopes others will see and won’t complain I ain’t meeting their every expectation – for myself out to others? “Ain’t askin’ ya to do anything I won’t do myself….” – LOL – Funny how your post just encapsulated the pinnacle of my, “My Stuff, Their Stuff, Our Stuff’ topic I’ve been wrestling with for months – Thank you!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m afraid I was blazing the day I went in to see her… 😉 I tried not to be an over-protective parent, but there are times…
      We do push ourselves, and while the spur of approval might get us moving, I do think we have to remember that we ourselves have the final vote on that 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Well, I was going to leave a comment but having what everyone else said I can only say they all said the same things as I could but much better! Beautiful piece Sue, powerfully and passionately voiced.


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