One Writer Finds His Place In the World of Worthy Ideas

Over the past decade or more, I have found that an idea, theme, or a philosophy that I've developed and used as the basis for an essay, poem, or short story springs up from the head, heart, and hands of someone else - before I can get mine out to a potentially appropriate publisher.

This used to frustrate me no end. ''Can you believe this?'' I'd say to my wife, who usually knows what I'm working on, and I'd show her the published piece of writing created from ''my'' idea.

''Just look at this!'' I'd say, crestfallen at having been beaten to the punch. And my wife would be kind and sympathetic.

Only later, when my disappointment had subsided, could I acknowledge the obvious, which is that there is nothing new under the sun - no emotion that hasn't been felt, no philosophy, theory, perception, or pronouncement that hasn't been, in some shape or form, expressed by someone before, and, for that matter, just as surely will be again.

The concept or subject is not the most important thing. The individuality with which it's expressed is.

No two actors play Hamlet, Cleopatra, or Juliet in precisely the same way; no two sopranos, tenors, or baritones perform Madame Butterfly or Der Rosenkavalier identically; and much the same applies in ballet and in the interpretations by orchestras and instrumentalists in classical and modern music. Individuality of expression is the determining factor.

These days, instead of feeling dejected when another writer has come up with ''my'' idea, I am motivated to examine the words and hear the voice and cadences, hoping to expand my own knowledge and understanding respecting ''our'' idea.

When someone steals my thunder, as I used to think of it, it's often a writer who's on a global or universal wavelength that seems to be calmly and quietly gaining strength. It's someone who is less preoccupied with gaining a competitive advantage than in honoring cooperative endeavor and supporting the exchange of spiritual and intuitive endowments in the same way that one would share scientific, technological, and financial expertise.

That wavelength, in my view, offers a promising balance in times of worldly imbalance and incertitude.

This, of course, is hardly a new idea.

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