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.
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.