“It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make their appearance in the world.”
Aristotle "On The Heavens”
So, was Aristotle the first guy to recognize that nobody is the first guy?
Today we’re between winter storms: more rain, and harder, and longer is promised for the weekend. From the high spot in my back yard I can see the Laguna mountains to the north, and this morning their tops are dusted with white.
When I think I’m thinking original thoughts, I’m probably just recycling stuff my long gone maiden aunt once thought. Possibly we both puzzled over the same mysteries our ancestors worried about as they hunted mastodons. The more I read and learn, the less original and creative I sometimes feel.
My ideas and thoughts are as circular as the crude illustrations I recall from elementary school books showing photosynthesis with clockwise arrows from the sun, to the cow in the field, to the roots and microscopic organisms beneath her hoofs, and back into the growing plants she munched. Remember the wiggly lines from the plants to the sun overhead? Or, remember the illustrations of weather that show water tumbling from the skies and puddles evaporating back into the sky? The snow on the mountain is just part of the cycle, parked temporarily like frosting on a mountainous cake, until the wheel turns again, and the snow melts, and the rivers flow down to the seas.
I’m just the latest copy of an ancient strand of DNA making it’s current appearance in the world. Some of my code is so deep it verges on instinct: the sense of wanting to hibernate in winter, for example, or the primal joy of seeing rainbows after a storm.
Some of my code may permit me to “discover” new ideas, and if I’m lucky, to advance collective knowledge a few small steps before I am planted beneath the earth for the roots of plants to digest, and I become wiggly lines of misty water evaporating up into the sky. Next time the wheel turns, I might be the snow on the mountains, visible on a clear and sunny morning from my garden in the valley. I might be the rainbow, or I might be the rainbow’s faint shadow, rewarding the early risers on a cold January morning between winter storms.
I’m probably not the first person to see the rainbow as the promise that the cycle continues even after we’re gone.