Everywhere and Nowhere

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Everywhere and Nowhere

My mother-in-law asked me recently where I got my ideas for writing. I think that led to a twenty or so minute explanation. Writers often have long-winded answers about such things, because there are no easy answers. At least not without drastically oversimplifying things, which is what I’m about to do because this is a blog post, not a dissertation.

The Muses were Greek deities whose domain focused on poetry, song, myth, with a touch of science thrown in for good measure. Ancient writers, like Homer, would directly call upon the Muses in their work. It’s easy to see how these traditions and beliefs came about. Anyone that’s had to work creatively will tell you that sometimes things just flow and sometimes the well is dry. Mystify this a little bit and you have gods whispering in your ear. Artists still invoke the Muses to this day, though the figure of speech is a bit more cheeky than literal now. The muses are the inspiration for art, that special little bit of fire that makes it special.

For me, those ideas tend to come from two places. Everywhere and nowhere. Told you I was oversimplifying things.

Ideas come from everywhere for me in that the world is full of ideas and thoughts. Everything is interesting if you know how to ask the right question, whether it’s a bit of science you never knew, a long-dead philosopher’s view of the world, or the current events making headlines. All of these are possibilities and all of these shape the texture of the way I see the world. When it comes time to write, everything I’ve been exposed to becomes part of the tapestry.

In the case of After Moses, the idea was based around the technological singularity. The singularity is the theoretical point at which technology outpaces mankind and mankind becomes irrelevant. This has long been a source of science fiction (think Terminator), but aspects of it are becoming reality even today. Predictive algorithms and rudimentary AI are getting better and better at their job. One day they’ll predict trends in the stock market better than humans. They also seem to know what I’m trying to search for on the internet before I type more than a couple words. And then, of course, there’s the number of jobs that will be lost to robotics in the next twenty years. The singularity, while an amorphous concept, IS coming.

Thinking about these things led to the idea of Moses, the singularity personified. The idea had, in a way, come from everywhere.

But ideas also come from nowhere, and this is perhaps where the Muses come in. Where was the leap in logic that lead me from modern technology to Moses, a benevolent AI that somehow failed and left humanity in dire straits? I can’t really tell you.

While I certainly don’t credit Greek deities, I do credit divinity. As a Christian, I believe that man is created in God’s image. This statement from the book of Genesis is one of the most important sentences in the history of mankind; it introduced our entire race to the concept of human dignity, that individual humans have value. But I think it also has implications for the origins of art.

If God is a creator, and we are made in his image, does that not also make us creators? We build bridges, write symphonies, tell stories, and more. Tolkien called our sub-creative powers the ‘enfoliation of creation.’ If the world is a great tree, made by God, then humans by their sub-creative power add new leaves to that tree all the time, things which were not part of the original tree, but belong to it nonetheless and add to its beauty.

There’s a lot of philosophy and theology here, but this is where I believe the Muse truly lies. This is why human’s can create from nothing, why ideas spring into our heads fully formed with no explanation. It’s part of our nature; we create in the manner in which we were created.

Where do ideas come from? Everywhere and nowhere. The world around us and out of thin air.

Ask a simple question and get a complicated answer!

Thanks for reading.

Michael Kane

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