This I Believe

Stephen - Sterling Heights, Michigan
Entered on March 26, 2007

Originality and Individuality

You hear it all the time – “Great minds think alike” – but whoever said it first obviously didn’t think it through; in fact, repetition of the saying only proves it wrong. Humans repeat history’s mistakes or become redundant in their actions if an effort is not made to change mindsets or mannerisms. I believe that originality is one of the most important qualities in the world, and that individuality is what makes our world interesting and diverse.

Originality is defined as the ability to express oneself in an independent, original manner, and this brings about the importance of ingenuity and imagination. In fact, the philosopher Dr. Samuel Johnson concluded that “No man ever yet became great by imitation.” What has been done before will be seen as “nothing new” by definition, and will most likely not be of great value.

Individuality is so important that, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reveals, “Imitation is suicide.” Not “standing out” is not “standing” at all; one becomes a nobody without a legacy, or more importantly without a distinction. It is true that working together can be important, but oftentimes, you will find that two people can’t exactly fill out a test together for an accurate indication of each of their abilities. What’s more, working together is often difficult because of individuality. George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World both consider individuality to be dangerous and unhealthy, believing that social strength comes from uniformity. I argue that true slavery is imitation, and that standardization leads to instability. If you mimic one aspect of a similar idea, you are bound to follow its corresponding thought-process thereafter.

There are many outlets for creativity, each serving the important purpose of breaking the mold. In my experience playing trading card games, I have learned one of many ways that it is possible to express oneself – deck building. In building a deck, originality is one of the most important qualities to keep in mind; as a strategy, it can enable unpredictable movements for surprising the opponent. Moreover, I have often observed others copying entire decks from others to unfavorable results: a lack of innovation means the opponent will be familiar and prepared, but most importantly, it is dishonorable to see such a great past-time watered down with clones of creativity. I have found that my ingenuity and freshness is something that others look up to and admire, and I get a great satisfaction out of knowing this. My grandfather has always told me that the greatest compliment he has ever received from audiences listening to his music was not that they thought that he was great, but that they had “never heard anything like it.”