Archive for March 3rd, 2010
I am following up yesterday’s post about authenticity and photography in relation to C.G. Jung’s essay on Cryptomnesia which is found in Volume 1 of the Collected Works. I am probably an addict when it comes to photography having spent more than enough money on lenses and cameras and supporting materials over the past forty years. Now with having a couple of digital cameras at hand, I find myself taking about 10, 000 photos a year. Yes, I know, how do I find time to eat and sleep let alone write up these blog posts.
For me, photography has become an aide for writing, an excuse for writing even though no excuse is necessary. I have been writing even longer than I have been taking photographs, about fifty years worth of practice doing this. At some point you would think I should start getting something right. Well, if nothing else, I am saying what I want to say – my words, my thoughts, my creative efforts. I am really writing anything original? Or, am I plagiarizing, borrowing the words of others either consciously or unconsciously?
“The smallest parts of a master work are certainly always old, even the next largest, the combined units, are mostly taken over from somewhere else; and in the last resort a master will not scorn to incorporate whole chunks of the past in a new work. Our psyche is not so fabulously rich that it can build from scratch each time. Neither does nature . . . she builds laboriously on what has gone before.” Jung, CW 1, par 178)
I can understand this better in looking at this photo where a spider has built a pattern that has been repeated endlessly, built in locations that are typical and likely to be rewarded with food. That said, the cobweb here is unique even if it uses a pattern that has been woven repeatedly over thousands of years. Writing isn’t much different is it? Sure we use words that have been said before, written before, even whole sentences and stories. Yet, in re-presenting these words in a new container with an attempt to explain something of our thinking, of our understanding, of our need, of our dreams; we create something new based on the old. Jung goes on to say:
“This process in the world at large is repeated in the smaller world of language: few novel combinations, nearly all of it old fragments taken over from somewhere. We speak the words and sentences learnt from parents, teachers, books; anyone who talks fastidiously, whether because he has a gift for languages or because he takes pleasure in it, talks “like a book” – the book he has just been reading; he repeats rather larger fragments than do other people. The ordinary decent person either doesn’t not talk that way or openly admits where he got it from. But if somebody reproduces a sentence eight lines long verbatim from somebody else, we cannot, it is true, peremptorily shut the mouths of those who cry “Plagiarism!” – for as a matter of fact plagiarisms do occur – but neither need we immediately drop the person to person to whom this misfortune happens. For, when nature instituted the faculty of remembrance, she did not tie herself exclusively to the possibility of direct and indirect memories; she also gave, to clever and foolish alike, the power of crytomnesia.” Jung, CW 1, par 179)
For those of you, like me, who write, this should ease the fear that one is somehow going to be caught for plagiarism for unwittingly writing a sentence we hear decades ago or read in a book at some point in the distant past. Just as an aside, I just did a “Google” search of the words in italics (as a single complete unit) and found that these words have noted in 2,880 hits. So much for a unique sentence phrase though I have not read a single one of these web postings. Plagiarism is a “deliberate” use of someone else’s words, a “conscious” decision, for the purposes of personal gain whether that gain be monetary, status, marks, or simply to gain a measure of esteem in the eyes of another. The rest? Well, it is covered as being due to the power of cyptomnesia.
So, it is with a sigh of relief that I return to wondering aloud about the world and my self through a Jungian lens.