“If you want to make an apple pie from
scratch, you must first create the universe.” — Carl Sagan


Now there is a humbling thought. It does tend to put a damper on
one’s ego quotient, doesn’t it? Invention and creation are far less original
than they are typically represented as being. Alexander Graham Bell certainly
understood this, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve
the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the
trail but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due
to others rather than to myself.” Henry Ford got it too, “I invented
nothing new. I simply combined the inventions of others into a car.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson explained how invention and creation
actually work, “Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or
should be an inventor.” The essence of the principle was captured by Auguste
Rodin, “I invent nothing. I rediscover;” and what may rank as the first
corollary was suggested by Jonathan Swift, “Discovery consists of seeing what
everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.” The converse of
Swift’s corollary was offered by the famous Anon., “Don’t expect anything
original from an echo.”


The take home point is that inventions, creations, and
discoveries aren’t themselves unique or original. They are merely the objects
or outcomes. Creation is in thinking what nobody else has thought.


Robertson Davies said, “Although there may be nothing new under
the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never
tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost
something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that
gives meaning and savor to life.” Curiosity ignites imagination; and
imagination in turn fuels the fire of creation. What then is this fire, this
imagination? Peter Nivio Zarlenga’s words hold the answer, “I am imagination. I
can see what the eyes cannot see. I can hear what the ears cannot hear. I can feel
what the heart cannot feel.” Dr. Seuss’ advice is a fitting, concluding
message for all who create, from universes to apple pies. “Think left and think
right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you
try!”