A man marches in formation, hour after hour, some call him an imitator, and most of us call him a hero. In militaries all around the world one of the first lessons you learn is how to march. Why? Because imitation fosters discipline. When I hear the aphorism “Imitation is suicide” I think, what if it is the only thing that makes society operate? A balance of imitation and originality is key to today’s society and without it we would be as a fish out of the water, moving around without clear purpose or direction.

Millions of people not only imitate but succeed while imitating. Just because you are not living on the fringes of society does not mean you do not succeed. While there are examples of wildly successful people who didn’t follow the lead of society, there are 10 people who succeeded while living in a way society deems acceptable and understandable. This is not to say that originality does not have a place in a modern society, it does or else we would never change or move forward as a society. But its role is limited in scope, if we were all original to a umpteenth degree then nothing would ever get done. We as a society need people who are fine with living the life of a janitor, or a policeman, or a secretary, not everyone can be out making waves and revolutionary changes, we MUST have stability AND uniqueness. Society has been ‘fueled’ by people going about their daily grind, by people who are unique only to a certain point and who are willing to imitate.

Power is based on a society’s ability to remain stable and productive. As I previously stated, very little would get done if everyone tried to ‘break their mold’ and if nothing gets done then the lights turn off, we don’t have adequate food supplies, water stops running to our faucets and life as we know it today ceases to exist. Without stability the power of a society is severely cut, when a society has no geo-political power it would soon be annexed by a more powerful state, and order and imitation would be enforced upon the members of the society in question, but with imitation there are several effects that make imitation well worth it; imitation is the key to discipline in armies and without an army we would quickly be absorbed by another foreign state, imitation allows policies for the betterment of society to be enforced, creating an infinite number of possibilities for improvement of the human condition. Without imitation society will always fall.

And now to my true point a balance of originality and conformity is needed for a society to flourish. Soviet Russia is a prime example of the balance of originality and imitation needed, and the consequences of no such balance. The Soviet state of Russia started out as something completely unique but eventually due to a lack of innovation it eventually failed. Now let’s look at America, we too were something completely new and innovative, a true modern democracy and unlike Soviet Russia we were and still are able to manage a balance between change and imitation. Some may argue that you cease to truly exist as a person if you imitate society, but look at the United States military where imitation is rampant, but yet we see some of the strongest and most alive people in this country. In day to day life it is also critical not to be too inclined towards either originality or conformity. Just imagine one day if everyone stopped going to work; power plants would stop operating, so too would sewage treatment facilities, within days there would be rampant crime and chaos, this could be a real possibility if everyone tried to be extremely original and ceased to conform. But also imagine the opposite, if everyone conformed and attempted to be the same, there would be no progress what so ever in the fields of literature and technology, everyone would be identical in all manners, we would simply cease to exist as individual societies and people.

To sum it all up, the two traits talked about in this essay are like polar opposites, one cannot exist without the other. It may seem redundant to state this but imitation breed’s power and wealth, while uniqueness is the root of all chaos and while we cannot live without one or the other, imitation must be prominent in a society. We exist because our parents conformed to human instinct and had us, in the end we are all humans and uniqueness is merely a matter of perspective. Who is in charge of deciding what uniqueness is? We are, so go and look at the world around us and decide, will you imitate and follow in the shoes of so many success stories or will you try to branch off only to find that you never even left the path society or some higher power had laid out for you?

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1 Comment on "Transcendentalism Essay: Imitation vs. Originality"

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ravi chandra

“will you imitate and follow in the shoes of so many success stories or will you try to branch off only to find that you never even left the path society or some higher power had laid out for you?”

Are you trying to scare people here? there shouldn’t be any self doubt in path of innovation, I feel, maybe, this essay is killing the very point of originality.