Original or Copy?

Which do I think I am?

Here’s the challenge:

“Every man is born an original, but sadly, most men die copies.”

Abraham Lincoln

But he himself was born an original and remained so to the last day of his life. The photo above shows a young Lincoln, about 1846-7, twenty years or so before the severest testing of his life, and of the nation’s.

And here he is in 1865, prematurely old, worn down, under immense pressure —  but still an original. This photo was taken by Alexander Gardner, an assistant to Matthew Brady, great photographer of the Civil War. The glass plate was broken at some point in its history.

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15 Responses to Original or Copy?

  1. Therese Bertsch says:

    I cannot even imagine what life was like for Lincoln. I shudder every time I watch, read, or hear about the Civil War. Scholars always refer to WW I as a war with unanticipated crisis and unimagined death counts. I am sure it was a horror but the Civil War rips the heart out of me in much the same way as the current polarization of the politics of our country. But…. inch by inch I believe we work toward consciousness and a transformative life. Let us hope! As to the central question if not me, then who? That’s the rub. It takes going through the fires of hell to crack open the shell of the unauthentic person trying to navigate daily life and then only by the force (grace as it is known in some circles). What’s fabulous about life is we have the power to help one another grow and claim our voice with as much or more force than life experiences that make one shy about coming out! I think your hot chocolate treats, pictured previously, help a lot (smile). You are so good at knowing what helps.

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  2. Trish MacNeil says:

    I was an original child, turned into a copy from my late teens through my 40s, and am slowly coming round to the original, though with modifications. I imagine a few manage to remain true to their original selves but I doubt anyone arrives at old age without some revisions.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      The revisions don’t matter, they’re part of the artist’s working and reworking —
      That’s a different thing from becoming a copy (for lots of reasons, most having to do with society’s pressures).
      It happens to most, it’s the recovery that counts. You are one of the most original people I know! Therese is another — And Mercy — And —
      Come to think of it, I’m so LUCKY to know a lot of originals and be inspired by them.

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      • Mercy says:

        Aw Judy, I don’t know what to say about this undeserved shout-out! I think some people call out the best in us and we respond by being our original true selves with them; there are other times, situations, and people that can leave us nodding and blending in with the landscape. But I liked Therese’s more profound explanation of what happens when life experiences “crack open the shell” forcing us to examine our inauthenticity and helping us become closer to our true selves in all situations and with all people. I see you and Therese as one of those “originals” myself…

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  3. Trish MacNeil says:

    The above (and this comment as well) was written by me (Pauline) on Trish’s computer – though she may very well echo my sentiments.

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  4. claudia shuster says:

    True, we start without too much direct influence from our environment (though even the environment around the womb has an influence).

    We also start out with powerful genetic makeup that strongly influences whom we become.

    Therefore I guess the idea of “original” feels too simple to me.

    Learning whom we want to become and working toward that means more to me. Even recognizing whom we want to become takes lots of effort for me.

    Hoping we are all trying to do this and working towards our goals for ourselves!

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  5. Stef says:

    And yet, Lincoln offers us hope: While most men may die copies, not all men do. Though the path of maintaining our individual, original, authentic voice is difficult at best, it is possible – we just have to be willing (and wanting) to work for it.

    As Lincoln did. Even at the high price that it came with.

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  6. Joe Clarke says:

    My generation’s temptation was to try to be an original like everyone else-Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Rilke, Baba Ram Das, et al. I love the commercials that pander to this illusion of uniqueness (in taste for liquor, cologne or conveyance) and America’s mythic rugged individualism, but didn’t realize the same appeal being made on the sub-culture level as well.
    I’m beginning to believe that we are designed or created to be social and thus form larger societies for survival but also the attainment of our immaterial nature through art, study, worship, prayer and love. The social contract assumes that we are all working/living for the greater good of all. So being “part of” is an essential part of our nature, however the threat is when society’s aims are seemingly threatened and then easily co-opted by evil interests.
    My Church group recently watched Weapons of the Spirit, and this time I noticed how some of those who were co-opted under the Vichy regime and Nazism were re-awakened to their own humanity by meeting such gentle, non-violent resistance to their aims by the farmers and villagers of Le Chambon.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Joe, Thank you for presenting such a thoughtful alternate look at the subject.
      Without question, you are — and always have been — an original.

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      • Touch2Touch says:

        And also, Joe, your Facebook comment is wonderful:
        “Probably our greatest President and a man of great humility and suffering. He also had a great sense of humor, which is one way to transcend the lure of self-pity and victim-hood. He didn’t take himself – nor anyone else – too seriously, knowing that we are all human, limited yet capable of thinking the world of ourselves. Of such funny stuff, great comedy is made.”

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