carbon copies

The average human speaks 10,000 words per day. Actually, to be more accurate, a woman averages 20,000 and a man averages at a meager 7,000 [a somewhat stark comparison, I know], but the point of this essay is not to talk about how the female population does not know how to “shut up and get to the point”, so ignore gender differences, debate them later, for they are irrelevant.

10,000. The human being communicates often, especially in a world overrun with technology – keep in mind this statistic does not take texting and tweeting into account – we are constantly speaking, sharing thoughts, relaying information, giving advice, making lists. We use words, phrases, sentences, language constantly. Even without realizing it.

Now, how much of what we actually say is real? Not real as in real vs. fake (of course what we say exists in reality) but substantially original? Think about this. We live in a world that is overflowing with words. From the day we are born, people are speaking to us. Our families, as we grow, feed us ideas and morals. All the books we have ever read, all the movies we have ever viewed, the TV shows we have anxiety attacks over [how am I supposed to wait a whole week??!]; they all influence us in more ways than just personality and behavior. How many times do you purposefully quote movies? Or start a sentence with, “Well, my mom always said…” How many times do you tweet song lyrics? How many times do you get on Tumblr and reblog John Green’s quote even though you’ve already reblogged it a thousand times?

Be careful now, really think about it. All the times you have purposefully quoted anything or anyone. A lot, right?

How many times have you done so unintentionally? [now I’ve got your attention] How much of what comes out of our mouths is something we have glanced over in an article or heard in a play? How much of what we say is an idea we heard about from a friend or a philosophy learned from Socrates? Give yourself a few seconds [one, two, three]. Think hard.

From infant hood, information is constantly and consistently being poured into us. There is so much of the world. So much history and knowledge and entertainment and technology. Everything is surrounding us at all times and we are always learning (even subconsciously) from life itself. It is no wonder that we sometimes seem to have all the right answers. Have a problem with your relationship? So have a thousand other people; they blogged about it and here’s how they fixed it. Feeling down? Here are some ways to feel good about life again. Want to nail your job interview? Do so in 7 easy steps.

With such a plethora of knowledge, do we ever think for ourselves? Now, of course you will argue that you think for yourself all the time. [“I think for myself! I decided to make eggs for breakfast this morning and no one helped me with that decision!”] But did you think of eggs for breakfast all by yourself? Who taught you that eggs were a breakfast food? Who even decided that eggs should be eaten and enjoyed in the morning? Did you really think of “eggs for breakfast” by yourself?

How many times do we comfort someone with the words or actions of others? Why do we expect love letters on Valentines Day? Why do we have ideas of happy endings or the hero always winning? We have seen these things, or read them, or heard them. We are constantly plagiarizing with our mouths, without realizing it.

Now, you may say, who cares? And I agree with you to some extent. [I happen to quote John Green and The Smiths on a daily basis] I love phrases of authors and favorite song lyrics and I enjoy incorporating beautiful words into my daily communication. But the thought is scary:

Are we all just carbon copies of each other? Different versions of multiple ideas all somehow merged together and the same?

How much of what I say is substantially original? Direct from me?

I do not know.