The world’s answering machine
Peli Grietzer, Amerikkkkka:
And I said, I said, ‘I spent the week deciding Kant was the first Modernist, then spent the weekend discovering that Clement Greenberg called Kant the first Modernist. Which is exactly what I hated about childhood the first time around: you thought you and the world were having a conversation but actually you were talking back to the recorded message on the world’s answering machine.’
Reading Erving Goffman for the first time was like this for me. It’s not that I thought my ideas about opticratics and selection games were original, but if you don’t know where to find the ideas, or you’re missing a searchable concept handle, your only recourse is plowing forward solo. Concepts may be re-invented at great energy expenditure, but the alternative is staying in the same place, pacing back and forth across your holding pattern. Research helps, but discovering novel frames takes more serendipity than systematicity.
The classic mistake of the old: Thinking there are no new ideas. The classic mistake of the young: Thinking your ideas are new.
So here we are in the middle-way, trying to strike a balance. Maybe novelty doesn’t even matter.