Inspired Unoriginality

Just outside of the tiny town of Tioga, Texas on a single lane highway, the odometer of my vehicle hit 300,000 miles.

I had been watching my odometer for a few days in anticipation for the big moment because I did not want to miss out on these prestigious digits of automotive triumph. The possibility of looking down and seeing 300,003 miles would have been extremely disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good palindrome but 300,000 just seems so much better even if it’s technically 3 miles less impressive in the context of distance.

We humans are complexly flawed.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I have never had any in depth conversations about odometers or numeric preferences to know the normal human thought processes on such things.

Regardless, I watched the climbing numbers of the odometer with the eyes of a hawk like it was a reverse time bomb and managed to catch the elusive number just as it hit.

Boom.

Naturally, I needed to document this monumental moment with photographic proof.

Beware reader: the next 45 seconds play out like a bad action movie.

Because Houston we have a problem…

I didn’t have my phone camera ready. I have now entered a time sensitive situation in which I’m going 70 miles per hour and that means I have less than one minute to get a picture of the odometer in its fleeting state of glory.

I pull my phone out and gracefully access the camera. So far so good. I stick my hand through my steering wheel to get a good shot.

But disaster strikes. There’s a glare from the sun on the odometer.

This is now a two handed operation.

I start to steer the with my knee as a I reach my free hand around to block out the the inconvenient glow from the setting sun that is threatening to take this victory from me.

Over my dead body. 

Potentially true statement.

I should probably mention that I travel down this same single lane highway multiple times a week and this stretch of road is so dangerous that I am convinced that it will be the sight of my premature death.

But I fear not death.

I line up my camera to take the shot but there’s a new problem. A worse problem.

There’s too much dust on the glass. Sure, I can clearly see the number in all it’s majesty but it deserves better than to be shadowed in dust. Plus I don’t want people to think I have a dirty car when this baby goes up on Instagram.

The clock is ticking.

I gently place the phone down in my lap and grab a totally clean and not at all dirty t-shirt out of the immaculately clean passenger seat of my car that smells of fresh pine. I wipe the dust from the odometer but make a smudge in the process.

I contemplate pulling the car over to the shoulder thereby stopping the odometer and to safely take a picture but immediately reject the idea. I do not have time for such logic. 

Time is almost up.

It’s now or never.

I take the shot.

I end up with a semi-blurry, off centered picture of a spit-smeared with a dirty t-shirt odometer that is half glared by sunlight. But you can totally see 300,000. 
Worth it.

I do the math to determine the number of trips around the world my car has made in terms of miles for a pseudo-intellectual comment to accompany this instant classic of an Instagram post.

I got 21 likes. Which is pretty decent for me.
As all the social media adulation was pouring in I began to contmeplate if all that death defying was worth it. 

I imagine Evel Knievel had similar thoughts throughout his life.

The difference is he actually did strap himself into a rocket in attempt to shoot himself across Snake River Canyon. I would have just been the guy taking a picture of the odometer as the people around me were fishing Evel out of the river….that is if the rocket had an odometer.

I just Googled “do rockets have odometers?” The mystery remains.

The point is what did I actually accomplish aside from taking a picture of someone else’s accomplishment as if it were my own?
I mean really the car did all the work. And I had nothing to do with the design or construction of the vehicle or the engine within. The argument that I responsibly keep up with the fluids is invalid because I rarely change my own oil so really the fine gents at the Kwik-Lube get that credit. 

And if I want to be completely honest, I drive a company car. I personally probably put closer to 70,000 miles on it. 

How do I even sleep at night with all the dishonesty weighing on me?

Well I usually read or think until I pass out.
Or maybe this is no different than taking a picture of fancy food at a restaurant while on vacation and posting it on Facebook. Even though we didn’t prepare the cuisine we still have this innate need to be seen so that people know we are living a moderately exciting life as opposed to just existing.

Maybe I subconsciously need people to know that I drive a lot and drive a car that is probably near death?

Possible. 

 

Ever since I started writing this blog I have a growing fear of being unoriginal manifesting inside my mind. It’s the main reason I have not written anything in a few weeks. I’m constantly reading and therefore I am constantly taking in the ideaologies and art and words of others and I am stating to feel as if there is nothing original left to say. 

There is nothing new under the sun after all.

Stephen King said in his book, On Writing,“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that i’m aware of, no shortcut. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

My problem, Mr. King, is I don’t understand the complete distinction between “inspired” and “theft”.

I get a weekly e-mail from a writer whom I admire in which he shares the goings on of his mind and life and nothing inspires me more to sit down and write as this e-mail does. 

And I think that is OK. But it leaves a bad taste in my mind.

I have sat down and written things that, despite being my own thoughts and my own words, were the product of writing directly after reading something and felt that nothing written could have been completely purged by outside influence.

If a songwriter hears a song on the radio and it just makes them feel on fire to sit and write a song of their own can that song be wholly original?

Is inspiration OK? A crutch? A bad habit? 
With reading so much and being inspired by the thoughts and writing of others being a catalyst for creativity it leaves me feeling as if I my own ideas and my own thoughts don’t inspire me often enough to sit down and write them out. 

I love words. 

Words are powerful. 

But I am afraid that I am not searching hard enough for my own.

If we as human beings are taught everything we know then what original thought can ever come from our head? Are we not molded by the ideas, information, and lessons that we take in throughout life?

But even writing prodigies like Stephen King talk openly about writing stories that were inspired by reading the work of others. 

There is countless art that exists as homages and tributes.

Perhaps the simple difference between but “inspired” and “theft” is making sure credit is given where credit is due.

Or maybe it is more complex.

Stephen King can write a short story with all the same writing tropes and styles of H.P. Lovecraft and give credit in the introduction and few people, if any, would think twice. But I think if an unknown writer did the exact same thing it would be easy to accuse them of piggy backing on Lovecraft’s tentacle-loving writing style  to get ahead even if they were up front and clear about paying homage to Lovecraft.

I don’t know.

I mean you can go to a book store and walk down the “Christian Living” section and find a 1000+ books that all say essentially the same thing; “The Bible says this about “x””. They all just teach the Bible in various formats and sure, you’re bound to find differing soteriologies, contexts, and unfortunatley some minor heresies. If heresy is ever minor that is. But you could still essentially buy up that entire section of 1000+ books by just buying a Bible when you think about it. 

You would probably be better off.

I doesn’t make it wrong though that Platt, Piper, Spurgeon, Chan, Lewis, Moody, Wesley, Chandler…etc, write about their own study of scripture so that we may better study scripture from writings of wise people. 

It’s just shared ideas presented by different people.

In this case, I am thankful for the inspired writings of others. So long as they are indeed inspired by the Truth that was Divinely inspired and I don’t become the product of talking heads and dead men.
Inspiration that leads to original creativity has to exist or art would have died off by now. And if that is true, original thoughts have to exist and still be buried and ready to be dug up when we are lead by inspiration to the X that marks the spot on our brain.

To my knowledge my thoughts expressed in this blog have been my own thus far and I have credited quotes properly but I still wrestle with this fear of being spectacularly unoriginal at the expense of someone’s originality.

I want to be vulnerable to new ideas and thoughts of other people as water to the soil of my brain so that I can produce my own ideas and share them here.

But I do want to become a wholly unoriginal product of other people. 
It’s impressive that my odometer says 300,000+ miles on it but I am not my car. It’s traveled the equivalent of about 12 times around the earth but it has never been outside of Oklahoma and her bordering states. I have been on the other side of the world. I don’t want to settle for faux life living. I want to experience my own journey and write about it and not hitchhike in the mind of others telling the the stories of the previous driver to the next.
Maybe my mental health is declining faster than intended.
P.S. I am constantly encouraged by people who read this and for that I am thankful. My head is a scary place at times and I am humbled when I hear that anyone gets anything positive out of it. In my first post I said that this blog was going to be a weekly thing and thus far I have not been super disciplined in it. Life is busy but not so busy that I can justifiably fall on that excuse for not keeping up with a weekly post.

That being said, I am extremely thankful to my friend, Ben Whiteaker, who has challenged me to keep writing and working towards that goal. My growing anxiety and fear of unorignal thought processes kept me from writing and his words of encouragement and reminder of my intentions with this got me to sit down at least be honest about it all.

This blog is extremely therapeutic if nothing else. Thank you Ben.

P.S.S. Please feel free to give me your thoughts on any of this in the comments below or if you have my personal contact info hit me up there. I am still walking all of this out. I will continue to write but I am curious as to what other people think about this subject of original, unoriginal or shared ideas.

P.S.S.S.? Speaking of shared ideas and all that jazz, the post that has been my most popular, or at least has sparked the most conversations with people is “I’m Kinda Sick of Church“. Thanks to those have read it and talked to me about it. I love conversation. But I stumbled across an article a couple of weeks ago through my pastors blog that pretty much expressed one of the points that I was attempting to make but in better and fewer words. It was called “An Apology to Christian Millenials“. Click the link and give it a read for it was way better said than my post.

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