(A tangent to this tangent.)
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
So goes the adage you may have heard before, and I’m inclined to believe that for a lot of things, it’s true. A healthy dose of boredom never hurts either. The idea of invention is one that always frustrates me–is it possible to ever truly come up with something unique? Or are we constantly just recombining experience? Perhaps this plays more into art then tangible creations, but it’s an interesting thing to ponder nonetheless. And I do love pondering. That being said, there have been some inventions that I’ve recently been mulling over, so here they are:
Shakespeare’s Words–There are potentially over 1600 words that were invented by William Shakespeare. That’s insane. Some sources will say that he didn’t quite invent that many, and really the magic lies in the phrases he came up with, but either way–the guy did some seriously awesome stuff with words. He created language that adequately described what he needed it to, and that is something I know from experience is a difficult feat.
The Negative— In a variety of my classes over the years we’ve talked about Kenneth Burke’s definition of man and one aspect that has always intrigued me is man as “inventor of the negative.” The idea, which I am going to do my best to sum up concisely and simply, is that there are no negatives in nature. For example, a tree is a tree. But with language, we create the negative. A tree is not a ball and it’s not grass and it’s not the sky. So, by using language, we invent the idea of the negative. We’ve created it. Interesting, no?
I’ll tell you what these trees aren’t.
Both of my aforementioned examples seem to come out of necessity to some extent, so I suppose the parable with which I began holds true to the end. We aim to fill the gaps in our lives and language, and often invention is a means to do so–and ultimately, that can create a lot of really cool things.