You won’t simply read this book, and it’s complicated. You see, you’ve no doubt read the actual content of [Sic] countless times, poked and prodded the works therein, studied them, wrote term-papers and thesis’ and dissertations, devoted your lives to them and their creators. Separately, most of these pieces are beautiful works of expression: inspiring, epic and evocative – sliced up and stitched together, however, they become something else entirely. But as a body of work, [Sic] can only be read in the same manner as one would read chicken bones. When you make your way through this hauntingly genius monstrosity, don’t be surprised with the weird places your mind will go. Mine, for example, went to the connected and fractal nature of collective-knowledge. There’s a key part in [Sic] where Schneiderman highlights the etymology of the word “from,” which had me constantly circling back to this notion that nothing can isolate any single idea or thought from every other thought or idea that came before it. What an immense truth, isn’t it?
And it’s baffling how many of our thoughts aren’t based on pre-existing conditions. When it’s quiet, and you have a little downtime – when the world melts into uniform streams of fantasy and wants, set aside some time to break down your inner thoughts and ideas, and try to remember where they came from. And then ask yourself: excluding biophysiological functions, drives, and needs, what’s left in your head that isn’t serial (or at least isolated from language, history, culture, values, mores, etc…)?
How many ideas sloshing around up there aren’t based on old information? Assuming you follow Descartes’ example, and you are because you think, try asking yourself how much of you is of novel origin. Examine it closer, if you dare, and play at the edge of that dangerous epistemological reservoir, which makes men pull against the many threads of their lives that are stitched into the deterministic fabric of our universe. Suddenly, free-will is an illusion, and you’re not special, and anything you can do, think, conjure, or conceptualize isn’t something anybody else couldn’t have done if the conditions were right. Talent is suddenly reduced to a margin of context and timing, refined by the opportunity of desire.
Admit that it isn’t possible to be original without embracing what came before. Admit that the only reason you’re able to utilize formulae to your own ends is because you have read the books you read, seen the movies you’ve seen, known the people you’ve known. The formula is true: you wouldn’t be you unless the world was what it is, and the fact remains that there isn’t a single thought in your head that hasn’t come from somewhere else. That’s called culture.
Originality is a factory that yields a generation of dreams, which then colors the dreams of the following generation, and finally makes new again what once was forgotten. This is a very clever (and important, even necessary) trick to being original, which freshens and reinvigorates the old, and keeps it relevant. The truth is that those past dreams are intellectually infectious, and the new dreamer is powerless to act upon them. And here’s Schneiderman’s question: who has the right to lay claim to that? By what circumstance have we come to earn that right? If nothing in your head is actually from you, how can you own it?
I worry that by saying things like this I may be adding to the overall redshift of what original content that does exist out there. And I think this is the point of what Davis Schneiderman is getting at; Of course my fear isn't the one true fear: who can honestly say that they have memorized Where the Sidewalk Ends, for example? But then who would you consider as reliable who couldn’t at least recite a word or two of Shakespeare? Even if you cared nothing to know anything about theater, you’d immediately recognize what follows, ‘O Romeo, Romeo […]’.
We think we want originality, but I suspect that we don’t really know what that means. At least for me, the wish for the new and the unknown is sometimes quite unsettling when granted. When you think about it, originality can be a scary and uncertain state. Humans are pattern-seeking animals in constant yearning for the comfortably familiar. This is how a story can become legend, before becoming a myth that precedes religion. What is there to love about the Bible if it isn’t the familiar cadence of its language? And it doesn’t just stop there; it’s the poetry of written language as a whole.
Even the word "Koran" means "the recitation," and it appears that in Arabic its conjuration can hasten people spellbound by sheer force, and yeah, even beauty. It’s the power of familiar, isn’t it? At least language gives substance to the concept of a connection to our distant past. It’s impossible for the new to exist without the old, and I won’t lie – I’m addicted to the familiar.
Yet sometimes, way past my bedtime, when I am not exhausted enough for sleep but too dizzy to continue absorbing anything news-related, I will approach the appropriate shelf and grab the unexpected: the books that have a tendency to surprise me. And then, of course, I’ll stay up even later than planned. I’ll grab a book like [Sic] by Davis Schneiderman, read it in a single sitting, see every familiar word in a new way, and sometimes, I really can appreciate that writing is not just done by hand.
Davis Schneiderman has created with [Sic] something that is truly one of a kind – you will never see anything even remotely like it again. And I think the discussion in years to come will be the entirety of Schneiderman's body of work – [Sic] is a single brushstroke on a larger canvas that will no doubt take a lifetime to fully appreciate, and he’s just getting started. Schneiderman is a master of his craft – of building images atop images – and provoking his reader to not only feel something, but to think unconventionally about conventional things. [Sic] is a lab-experiment. It’s an in-depth look at the mythical line between written language and visual-art. It’s an emblazoned declaration, a scathing indictment, a reverent homage, and a wonderful piece of expression all in one. You just have to check this out.
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Thanks for reading, and as the islanders say: Live slow, mon.