Heart of the Original

By Steve Aylett

Originality is hated and pretended, but the real thing is beautiful

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Resurprised

Certain ceremonial masks of Subsaharan Africa portray expressions of astonishment and provide relief from having to repeatedly fake surprise at the same things – an energy-saving bliss reserved for the tribal shaman. Cultures which ban such masks through a prohibition against graven images are predictably scandalised at everything, including their own legs. The wearily exasperated look on the faces of lions in the earliest cave paintings attest to Paleolithic people being constantly caught unawares by the cat’s ferocious attitude. Woolly mammoths are also depicted as having been appalled to a standstill, rarely running or having a nice time. When shamans began portraying monster-jawed zigzag devils, antlered insect men and flying sharks to broaden everyone’s horizon and ensure they wouldn’t be dumbfounded by every development, the clan’s hunters were still startled by the slightest sound.

To the short of memory everything is unprecedented, and the rest are pressured to pretend. For the media to thrive the uneventful must daily go with a bang using the Wolf-Rayet principle of massive gas and ferment gradually losing mass to the surrounding reality. Belong to the always-sudden world if you wish for shallow stress and lack of progress.

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