Nothing New Under the Sun
Confession #8: I have this insane idea that one day I will be able to create a work of art (be it film or story) that is completely original and new.
Yesterday, we began looking at Ecclesiastes, and how this book of the Bible has a lot to say about life but also art and creativity. Today and for the next few days, we'll be focusing in more on specific themes within the first chapter. And the first one is that there is nothing new or original on this earth (I'm kind of jumping the gun, because this is actually not the first theme we see in Ecclesiastes, but it has impacted me the most).
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which is said,
"See this thing is new?"
It has been already in the ages before us.
Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10
There is nothing new under the sun.
I first began thinking about this idea while taking a Shakespeare course in high school. Something that my teacher said is that most modern stories are based off of ideas from Shakespeare's canon. The Lion King? Based off of Hamlet. She's the Man? Based off of Twelfth Night. Most historical movies or movies about kings and queens? They have similar themes to Shakespeare's histories. Comedies? They borrow a lot of Shakespeare's comedic plot devices. The same can be said for tragedies. Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and 2 long poems. The man was busy, and he hit upon a lot of major themes and ideas in his years as a playwright.
Right now, I feel pretty nerdy about my Shakespeare knowledge (I love the Bard!), but this information has always stuck with me. However, since becoming a Christian three years ago, I've learned that Shakespeare borrowed a lot of his material from other writers and a lot of what he writes about the Bible actually covered first.
C'est la vie (this is life).
As artists and creative people, we get this great idea, and we begin thinking about it, developing it. Then we discover that someone else had that same idea, and our time spent developing the idea is for naught.
This happens to me all of the time. When I was in high school, I thought of a story about people that can be awake in their dreams and experience their dreams as if they're real life. I even wrote a screenplay on this story for my senior thesis.
Have you heard of a similar story?
Inception came out that same year, and my screenplay about dreams was crushed.
Ecclesiastes speaks truth. There is nothing new under the sun. No idea or creative endeavor is ever completely new or original. This is sad news for the person that spends their whole life trying to come up with something completely unique and original. But this truth is freeing for the person that lives in light of it.
If we live in light of the fact that anything we create will never be completely new or original, that sets us free from trying to achieve originality. We are free then to just create and even innovate.
Honestly, some of the best movies and books I've ever experienced have used old ideas and themes and innovated them. An example of this is the film Avatar directed by James Cameron. When this film came out, people were really critical of it. They said that it was pretty much Pocahontas with blue people. And they're right. It is pretty much the story of Pocahontas.
However, James Cameron took a known plot and innovated it. And it worked! Avatar is still ranked the number one grossing film of all time. Almost three billion dollars for a film about Pocahontas and blue people.
So I hope this brings you encouragement as an artist and a creative person. There is nothing new or original under the sun, but God has given us the gift of creativity despite this fact. We can create things that impact people and bring glory to God even if they are not original. In fact, Avatar is a living testament to the fact that an old idea that is innovated can be impactful.
God is the only truly original one, and that sets us free from the chains of unattainable originality and allows us to be creative and innovative.
This post is part of a 31 Day Series called Confessions of a Creative Christian.
The photo above was taken by a friend of mine, Kaitlyn Moore.
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