When men are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.
~ Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind
Should we find this dismaying? Our habits of imitation may be explained on the one hand by the uniformity of human desires and, on the other, by the diversity of human interests. Nature in each of us wants the same things. Food, shelter, sex, influence, books; the catalog isn’t long. And no matter how far afield our curiosity moves us (even so far as the gut flora of dust mites), we can be sure that someone else has already cut a path. We inevitably find company, even when we don’t want it.
I look round to shake hands with Shem.
~ Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Shem, it turns out, had a firm handshake and was a little thicker in the chest and brow than expected. The discovery that peoples of Eurasian ancestry trace a notable portion of their genetic inheritance to Neanderthals is no surprise to me, since I am one of those who accessorize their skulls with an occipital bun. Ich bin ein Neanderthaler.
1: Herman Melville, from a letter to Hawthorne:
This “all” feeling, though, there is some truth in it. You must often have felt it, lying on the grass on a warm summer’s day. Your legs seem to send out shoots into the earth. Your hair feels like leaves upon your head.
2. Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Winter:
3: Jean Giono, Joy of Man’s Desiring:
They say that man is made of cells and blood. But in fact he is like foliage: not pressed together in a mass, but composed of separate images like the leaves on the branches of the trees and through which the wind must pass in order to sing.