> urticator.net

  About This Site
> Glue

> Art
  The Mind
  The Body
  Other (2)

> In General
  Books and Stuff

  Spoilers and Polluters
  Art as Novelty
  Patterns of Artistic Output
  Seek the Original
> Nothing New Under the Sun

Nothing New Under the Sun

In a nice self-referential twist, what I want to say here is certainly nothing new. Allow me to quote what is probably my favorite biblical verse, Ecclesiastes 1 : 2–11.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
   vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
   at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
   but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
   and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
   and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
   and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
   but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
   there they continue to flow.
All things are wearisome,
   more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
   or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
   and what has been done is what will be done;
   there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
   “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
   in the ages before us.
The people of long ago are not remembered,
   nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
   by those who come after them.

The alert reader may notice that I've mixed versions by changing “Teacher” to “Preacher” in the first line. I like it better that way.

Looking through Familiar Quotations, I found the following, from The Anatomy of Melancholy.

We can say nothing but what hath been said. Our poets steal from Homer. … Our storydressers do as much; he that comes last is commonly best.

The above contains two separate memes, that there's nothing new, and that the last is best. Is the last best? I'll let you decide. Here's a later version of the same idea, from For an Autograph (also via Familiar Quotations).

Though old the thought and oft expressed,
'Tis his at last who says it best.

In keeping with the idea of extremes, I should point out that the idea that the last is best has an opposite, which is, of course, that the first is best. The idea that there's nothing new also has an opposite, which can be traced back to Heraclitus (again, in Familiar Quotations).

Nothing endures but change.


  See Also

  Additive Measure of Risk, An
  In Mathematics
  Long-Distance Driving
  Seek the Original
  What Would Memetics Look Like?

@ September (2000)