We copy everything. Sometimes we don't realize it. Sometimes we do. In “Everything Is a Remix” we see how prominent this phenomenon of copying is, and why it's not a negative habit of our species. Even Nature does it!
This is a great four-part series (it's only about 40 minutes), going through the most famous remixes in music and movies, and showing how we've copied everything. The first three videos detail copying in media. The fourth video discusses copyright law and how extreme copyright enforcement has gotten (and how little sense it makes to have gone so far).
It's one thing to copy a theme or reuse an idea, and it's another to steal someone's creation, using it as your own when it's not, and never will be, yours. The advice this little series gives at the very beginning is that there's a difference between copying/remixing and out-right theft. We humans copy, yes, but when we do we infuse enough of our own personality and essence into what we copy to make it our own, to make it better, or at least different.
There's nothing “original” in this world. No human being ever “invented” fire, but tamed an already active force of nature. The wheel and the space shuttle are the same. Darwin discovered Evolution, and Einstein discovered Relativity. They did not invent an original idea. It was there already for anyone to see, and others had seen it, or had come close to seeing it before or at the same time.
In literature there are no “original” stories. Frankenstein was not an original idea. Not the occult theme of galvanism, nor the way the story was written (it's structure), not to mention the many stereotypes within. Mary Shelley took all she had already known and spun it in a new pattern.
There are new patterns in art and media. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dune are all new patterns, but none of them contain original ideas in and of themselves. All of them are great, but their parts have been seen countless times before. They use the same few colored threads to get a slightly different design, which we enjoy.
Every human copies. We give each other a hard time for being brainwashed sheeple, but the truth is, even the most original people are carbons of others; it's just that these people copy stranger patterns and forms than the average man or woman.
It could be said that people who deride others for being average, especially in terms of art (think of all those who dump on “Twilight”), are the biggest ripoffs of all. They're angry that today's generation can't create anything original, so these elitists do something completely, wholly unoriginal: they attack people for it.
Likewise, there's nothing new and original about feeling misunderstood. Or about being compassionate. Or about having a new idea.
I've stopped trying to be original. I'm more interested in remixing what has already been done. Forming a new pattern from those same few colored threads. Putting my personal stamp on life.
You are already doing this, whether you're a creative artist or not, whether you realize it or not. You do it on a biological level, a psychological level, a personal level. From having your parents' mannerisms to dressing like your friends. We imitate from our earliest movements, consciously and unconsciously.
But we're supposed to be original, right? Wrong! No wholly original idea has ever been successful. Not a one. In fact, nearly everything that has ever contained a hint of originality has either failed by its own faults, or has been pushed out of the way by more familiar contraptions. What has succeeded has contained enough of the familiar to be acceptable, and to work.
Life is a slow burn of evolution, not a sudden and random time travel.
Life is a mash-up of a bunch of copies, and that's cool, because within the familiar there are a million ways to see the old in a new light.
I don't think this is cynical. I think it's important not to waste time reinventing the wheel, but to improve the wheel we already have. Make it faster, make it stronger, make it more durable, make it more beautiful.
How can we invent colors we've never seen before?
Isn't it better to blend the colors we have?