Imitation is the sincerest of flattery
– Charles Caleb Colton

People copy other people. It’s human nature. We learn by imitating. We see a smile we smile back. We hear a sound we try to copy the sound and repeat it back. We see something we like, we want to copy it. We see something we don’t like, we want to avoid it.

We feel a need to imitate until we find ourselves. We are a version of the accumulation of learned behaviour and thoughts. Sometimes we are lucky enough to find a new thought or idea, mostly we are a collection of other people’s thoughts, habits and actions. That unique collection is what makes us who we are.

We can say we detest copying and imitation all we like but we all do it. We cannot help but do it at some stage in our lives. It only becomes a legal issue when we try to pass other people’s work off as our own. I do not condone that. Imitation is the highest form of flattery until it isn’t.

I’m talking about the learning and understanding of other people and what they do and think. The standing in other people’s shoes for a while. Borrowing the moment. We copy or imitate until we make it better or make it our own.

We imitate other people yet we want to be my own person. To fit into society we imitate other people’s actions and habits. We are anonymous.  We like our space, our privacy and our thoughts. This is a conflict in thought, the desire to imitate yet at the same time to be unique, oneself. In society if we blend in well enough by imitating the masses we disappear. Otherwise we stand out.

In art we learn from those we admire or are famous.  We want to get inside their heads and try to understand where they were coming from. We believe we can attain that from holding a brush as they did, mixing paint as they did and applying the paint as they did. To be in that moment we can be that person. The curve of the charcoal stroke, the smoothness of the stone, the dab of the paint just so. Some techniques have been lost. Some are so poisonous that we wouldn’t want to replicate them even if it were possible.

In everything truth surpasses the imitation and copy.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Once we have imitated or shown curiosity of another person or their work to progress we must step further forward to find ourselves or our own work. Imitation is a step in the journey, not the destination.

Autism and Imitation:  The Power of Imitating Children with Autism
The Hanen Centre

The Human Copying Machine

REM – Imitation of Life

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