“What happens when a new work is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.” A quote from “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” Eliot’s says art is an influencing force on the heritage from which it came. I like to think of it as a fountain representing the spring of life-giving water.
Ever noticed how certain authors sound like others? And not just in their language or their particular manner of speech, like how Neil Gaiman sounds like Stephen King. I mean as in subject matter and themes. Eliot says that when you realize this order, you realize it isn’t so strange that the past is altered by the present just as much as the present is directed by the past. The new work is informed by the past, but it goes further: it changes the lineage. This is our deepest human goal as long as we are living—to push our species forward to drink at the fountain of the ever-present, ever-evolving heritage.
What the heck any of this has to do with us, I’ll tell you, is that this is our goal, to recognize the dead artists’ contribution. This fountain is where to begin. If we commit to show up frequently, we’ll earn the right to contribute our lines. So when you’re feeling a little alone in your quest to create, don’t worry that the world doesn’t understand you. Folks don’t see like you do, the value of the heritage fountain. Don’t waste time trying to convince them they’re wrong. You need them, just as they need you. But you are heir to the fountain built by the most interesting people who ever lived. You are never alone, young geeks. Go find your friends hanging around the fountain.
Thank you to Scott Cairns for these thoughts and to Regeneration Quarterly for originally publishing them. I am in your debt.