Nearly everything that’s been done has been done before. Every single note has been played, in not necessarily the right order, every possible rhyme has been written in every possible combination, every knock knock joke fallen flat; every metaphor and simile murdered; every Tom Jones song and painful rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’, in the bath, shower, or the drive to the drive-though. We just weren’t there to see them done – because we were busy getting other stuff done!
You may never have walked into a room and wondered what you went in for, performed that synchronised left-right dance with the person heading in the opposite direction, acted like a complete spaz in front of a camera or giggled at one of your own farts when nobody was around, but it’s been done. I bet you know at least one person who’s called it a ‘hyperdeemic nurdle‘.
‘It’s been done before’ has been said before – or so it’s been said. ‘A reboot’, ‘A re-imagining’, ‘An interesting take’ and ‘a unique interpretation’ are merely ways of saying that something that has been done before is being done again, just done in a different way to the way it was done before – which is done quite often these days: a male character now a female, a white now a black; meh, it’s been done to death. Things done-the-same-but-different-to-death have been done to death.
Regardless, it’s all been done before. Prog rock was encumbered with musical bits that have been done before; Jazz, blues, classical, folk. Every song has something in it – a sound, a riff, a chord sequence – that reminds you of something that’s been done before; particularly if that music happens to be by Oasis (that tired old joke’s been done since the 90’s).
Thousands of years; billions of possible ways of communicating, emoting, expressing, pontificating, posturing, putting a point across, must have all been done. Even if it hasn’t been done recently – well, not as much as it was done in the old days; probably done away with ages ago because it wasn’t worth doing in the first place, like dunking witches in ponds. There’s a reason we know it’s not worth trying to staple water to a tree!
It’s entirely conceivable, don’t you think, that just because you don’t know of something being done doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done; some done things live out their lives in secret drawers or garden sheds; others, perhaps, daubed in a cave; a quiet ritual by a lake; a private performance for a King’s eyes only. Being at a party and trying to find your coat, which is nearly always among other coats, piled on a bed. Yeah, you’re nodding at that being done.
That funny shaped rock you found on the beach? There’s another one just like it – c’mon, it’s a big universe. If you split that rock with a mallet (it’s been done; plenty of reasons for taking a mallet to the beach), there’ll still be two split rocks just like it – probably separated by several hundred thousand billion light years, but that’s not the point.
Some time ago, in some other place, maybe in some other reality, it also bucketed down for exactly three minutes and forty-two seconds, emptying three and a half millimeters of rain. It occurred on the day you thought was going to be clear (not quite jacket weather, not exactly shorts weather either; you know the one) and decided to peg a load of bloomers on the line before heading off to work – as you do. Sound familiar?
When brainstorming, researching, trolling cyberspace for ideas to plagiarise (now, that’s mega-done. Everywhere. By everyone), I find many things that have been done well, or done badly, or probably shouldn’t have been done at all – at least in the way it was done. Sometimes I try to be clever (that’s done all the time, and not always done well) and come up with something off-the-wall, only to discover that it’s been done before.
We’ve all, at one time or other, stumbled upon an idea for a poem, or play, or make an observation that has been said or done before. Sometimes, after we’ve done something, only then we’re told of it having been done before – were we leap to defend what we’ve done on the grounds that we didn’t know it was already done, and if we did know it was done we wouldn’t have done the way we did.
In the end, you have to accept that what’s done is done, and was done, and will be done again – like popping to the loo in a strange house at a fancy dress party, only to pick the wrong door and be presented with the unseeable sight of Sylvester scissoring Elmo on a pile of coats.
I think I’m done.