Two people I respect and care about and whose taste I appreciate, only partly because it is similar to my own, have again simultaneously expressed their belief that I should work at making the writing thing pay. And so I will honor their encouragement by making a full and earnest effort at that.
Now I'm rereading things I've saved over the past 15 years or so, and I ran across this brief essay from 2008—no idea why I wrote it, but it seemed apt for these our times.
There is nothing new under the sun. Solomon wrote that several thousand years ago, according to Bible traditionalists. Actually, the passage reads, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” And it might have been written only about 2300 years ago, well after Solomon’s lifetime, but the point is that people have been saying this throughout mankind’s journey. In one sense it has always been true, but not in every sense.
Reality may always remain more or less the same, but our perceptions of it have always been in a state of change. And what we do with those perceptions does sometimes create newness. Monet was the first artist to become famous for painting just exactly what he saw, rather than filling in details with what he knew to be there. His paintings are best viewed from a distance of at least several feet, as closing in on them enhances the lack of detail and makes the subject unclear. His large landscapes allow us to see exactly what he saw, if we look at them from a proportional distance to his own distance from the actual view. As Monet aged, his eyesight deteriorated, yet he still painted only what he could see, which gives us a wonderful opportunity to appreciate his changing perspective.
He’d have made a great eyewitness to a crime in that he would neither have added or subtracted information based on something other than sensory cues. Most people aren’t capable, it seems, of describing only what they saw and heard; no more and no less. Police investigators work hard to distill all the viewpoints they are offered into factual, objective evidence.
Our ideas about how the world works changes as we become more scientifically advanced and adept. But what we do with those ideas is pretty much the same as what we’ve always done: we argue over them, start fights and even wars over them, or ignore them all together and continue on blithely in a state of general ambivalence.
Computer technology has created rapid changes in the art and media industries, but the subjects most important to those industries are the same as always; what people desire, what they believe they need, what they believe is right or wrong with the world surrounding them and inside their own heads. Artists, marketing firms, and advertising agencies still attempt to influence these desires and beliefs in much the same way they always have; through our physical senses and our emotions. An artist’s motivation is said to be more pure because his or her work is not created in order to take advantage of those who view it, however, the line separating artistic integrity from marketing strategy has been the subject of concern since, well, probably since the days of Solomon.
So sometimes our changing perceptions lead to newness in thought and idea. Sometimes the new ideas create chaos, other times they founder, still other times they lead to positive action. Sometimes they are received in a spirit of enlightenment, and at other times we view them with a jaded eye. This has always been true for mankind, and so, in that respect, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Our patterns remain in place, rotating through cycles the way the earth rotates through seasons. It’s all in how you look at the thing.