There’s nothing new under the sun.
We have the ability to create some beautiful things to be sure, the compositions might change, the form might differ, but the elements and building blocks are the same.
There will only, always be twenty six letters in the English alphabet. There will only, always be four letters to our DNA code. There will only, always be eight notes to an octave.
We can combine the letters to make an almost infinite variation of words. Nature combines DNA to make an almost infinite variation of plants and animals. We use eight simple notes to create an almost infinite variation of music. But no matter the creation, they all share the same elements and foundations. Such is the life that lives within the ether.
I noticed this concept in a serendipitous yet pivotal moment in my life. Having spent over a decade in church, self-righteously cut off from any worldly music and culture, I was unaware of what was going on in Seattle and the whole grunge rock movement. When I broke out of that small world and began to explore the things I missed, I was struck at the similarities between some things ‘in church’ and ‘out of church’. Nowhere was this more apparent than in music, and I suspect the ether is to blame for it.
I know music: more than most, perhaps not as much as some. I sang in my high school a-capella chamber choir, I sang in college, learned to play the guitar, and spent my enlistment in church as a member of the worship team.
When I stepped out the the sacred and into the secular, I found myself listening to stuff that was similar to what I was hearing and singing in church. The lyrics were obviously different, but in the music one could hear the same sense of soul calling unto some deep where an epiphany might provide a glimpse of hope or a new direction. I could picture the musicians, aiming for a different satisfaction, yet using the same tools and expressing the same sentiments. I learned that it didn’t matter whether I was listening to ‘God-approved’ music or not, the chords and words still inspired greatly, still gave me a sense of peace among the life storms of anxiety, still drew from the same ether, still contained the same rhythm.
Science voices its support for an ethereal commonality with ideas like Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ and Sheldrake’s ‘morphic resonance’. It makes perfect sense really, we all pull from the same components that are available to the universe in which we reside, we cannot help but see commonalities within our expressions no matter how ‘varied’ we try to make that expression.
Yet: we are individually unique in many ways so that anything we filter from the ether and put in tangible form is going to be wholly consigned to our individual existence. There may be only a few plot lines with which a writer can work, but each writer will tell you that their own blood, sweat, anxiety, and soul go into any creation, thus giving the world a new perspective, a new challenge to think. Hopefully, we make ourselves better in the process.
It’s no coincidence that so and so’s song sounds eerily similar to such and such’s songs. It’s no strange twist of fate that keeps producing the same love story over and over again no matter how many writers tell the story. It’s no act of chance that architecture repeats itself the world over. We all draw from the same components available to us in the ether.
There is nothing new under the sun, but there is our individual contribution.