I read something just recently which gave me pause. They were the words of Oscar Wilde.
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions. Their lives a mimicry. Their passions a quotation.”
I have liked the word mimicry since I was a small child. There’s just something about the way it looks and the way it sounds. But these words stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking.
There is a lot of truth in these words. Many of us spend much of our lives mindlessly following in the paths of others. We do things because were “supposed to” – because that’s what society finds acceptable or imperative. People seldom stop to evaluate the value of their choices and decisions, their lifestyles. We live the same lives that countless others have lived before us, just at a different time. We believe the half truths the media provides us, and have the same opinions about it that 50% of others share.
“Their lives a mimicry. Their passions a quotation.” What do you think of when you hear that? Your passions a quotation. I wonder, are they? Am I passionate about things which I really believe in, which I truly value, or am I passionate about things I think I am supposed to want? I know that I don’t live the way many others live, I know that I have different priorities. But just because I don’t check with what’s ‘acceptable’ before I begin my day, does that mean I am the first one living life this way? Even if we wish to live originally, can we?
A tinge of uncertainty and possibly fear accompany my ponderings of these words. I fear that these words may be true. Who wouldn’t be upset by that, unless you truly don’t care? I do not want these words to be true of me. I would venture to say that I refuse to live this way – but can I truly say that? What what if in some respects that is inevitable?
We want this to be false, but is that because we wish to be unique, subjective, original? Is that selfish and narrow? I think we believe that if our lives have been lived before us then the value of what we’re doing, our trials and errors and triumphs and successes, means less. But if we truly want to be subjective the least we can acknowledge is that we’re a different person living that life, and that truly makes all the difference.
I think that if it is true, if our lives can be nothing else but a mimicry of a life already lived, then there’s only one solution for us: we must find someone whose life merits mimicry. This is not to say that there is any one person whose life was at all times exemplary. But there are pieces and parts of people worth following. If there is no way to live a life originally, which I’m not sure I fully believe, but if there is no way to live a life originally, then we had better set out to find better role models…