Take, for example, inspiration. Let’s ignore Mirriam-Webster’s not so helpful “the quality or state of being inspired” and look at TheFreeDictionary’s entry:
Inspiration: Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
Accurate, yes. But so dry. Simulation of the mind… Come on, this is inspiration we’re talking about! All of us have experienced this feeling. It’s often associated with art, but you don’t have to be an artist to know what it’s like. You just need to be a human. Remember that sudden feeling when the world changes its colors, as something inside your mind comes to life and makes you do things that seemed almost impossible a moment ago? That feeling when everything seems possible; when everything is possible. The feeling that takes you to that next level be it in singing or running, writing or cooking. Of course, the next minute it’s gone, and you’re left with all the work it has lured you into, but you can still feel its trace. Try that for a definition (actually I’m glad they don’t).
And that’s where we getting to that Aha! moment. The most interesting part about this feeling is that it’s always triggered by something that someone else has done. It could be that line you’ve read, the tune you’ve heard, that movie you’ve watched, but it’s always about someone doing something that resonates with you. I don’t know about you, but that’s the case with me. I don’t get inspired by sunsets and breathtaking canyon views. I can enjoy them, but I get inspired by people.
Now let’s take another step down that rabbit hole. Say, you’re a songwriter writing new lyrics and on the way you get inspired by a Bob Dylan’s song. Well, at some point Bob had been inspired too. His inspiration? Dylan Thomas among others. Was anyone inspiring him? Sure. Arthur Rimbaud, for example. Who, in turn was often inspired by the works of Victor Hugo. Hugo’s inspiration? Some well known names including William Shakespeare. I’m going to stop here before we trace it down to Homer reciting his verses to the Greeks (which is entirely possible).
Think about this for a moment. Doesn’t it feel like you’re a link in an ages-long chain? I don’t mean it in some touchy-feely metaphorical way. I mean it nearly literally. The song that inspired you was written by someone whose mind had received a boost of inspiration from someone else’s work. Now it’s your turn — and the moment your song is born and others hear it, they may very well receive their own inspiration boost from it. Who knows maybe that spark of creativity you’ve experienced is an echo of thoughts that were crossing Dante’s mind as he worked on his Divine Comedy. It’s almost like a genealogy tree of inspired minds. And your mind is a part of it…
I’m going to stop again, this time before it gets creepy. There’s only thing that can be even more inspirational than work of others. But that’s a topic for another post. In the meanwhile, how far can you trace your inspiration?