IVP - Strangely Dim - Global Pillage

December 12, 2003

Global Pillage

by David A. Zimmerman?

If there’s such a thing as an original thought, you probably won’t find it in “Strangely Dim.”

I realized this fact while I was looking through the book Imagine by Steve Turner. I was checking some facts for another book and discovered this passage:

If our wish is that the things of this life should “grow strangely dim,” then we
have developed a dualistic way of life. We are not seeing the important
division as that which exists between righteousness and evil but between the
material and the nonmaterial.

That’s brilliant! I wish I’d thought of it.

Wait a minute—I thought I had.

I haven’t read Imagine (you can learn about it at ivpress.com), but I did spend a lot of editorial time with it during its production. I’m sure that at the very least I read this passage then. It’s entirely possible I went around the building telling people how cool it was.

There was a time, I’ve read (my source is none of your business), when unacknowledged borrowing of others’ ideas was commonplace in publishing—probably because few enough books were being published that original ideas were easily traced to their source. There was a time as well when people in two different countries could come up with the same idea independent of one another—such were the limitations of global communication.

But these days are not those days. These days even hapless borrowing like mine of Steve Turner’s idea (imported all the way from England) can get you expelled from colleges, newspapers and presidential campaigns. Ideas in the current economy are saleable assets, and stealing intellectual property (such as MP3s or AIDS medication formulas or, let’s face it, concepts for an online column) is tantamount to stealing stock certificates: they’re worth more than they seem on paper.

And yet, they are only ideas, after all. It’s not beyond plausibility that two people could have roughly the same idea at the same time; you see late-night talk show hosts make virtually identical jokes about the same current event on a regular basis, for example. And where did the “Jinx—buy me a Coke” phenomenon come from, if not the cultural reality that people think along the same lines a lot?

More important, who cares whose idea the AIDS cocktail was when millions of people are dying from AIDS every year because of intellectual property disputes? If original thoughts were such a commodity, the Gospel of Mark could have sued the Gospels of Luke and Matthew for damages a long time ago, and Mark would have won the lawsuit.

Sadly, my own case doesn’t benefit from these arguments. “Strangely Dim” is not a solution to the AIDS pandemic, nor is it holy writ. So I must beg forgiveness of Steve Turner, recommend that you buy his book Imagine, and warn you to never vote for me for president. There’s no telling what I’d say to get elected.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at December 12, 2003 9:44 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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