Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Because practices are homologous and tend to be reproduced, contemporary society places a high premium on originality. Watch popular singing contests like American Idol, for example, and you will hear judges criticize singers for singing like they were in a karaoke bar, or for not making the song their own, or for not letting their personality shine through, or in other words, for not being original.

I guess contemporary society has to wrestle with the boredom of reproduced practices and has become very much unlike other societies where reproduction of tradition maters, a time for example when guilds existed to make sure nobody deviated from trade or production processes.

The premium on originality, however, is not absolute. Originality has its limits and the art of practice is to innovate without offending society's unspoken standards. Not all practices that are different are considered original. Some are considered distasteful or inappropriate because they are different.

In other words, what we deem original is different but it is not too different and the trick is to have a sense of the difference between the two.

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