The True Value of Imitation and Why Trust and Truth Is Important In Society
Society As A Judge Can Bring Forth The Best In You
When utilized in a positive manner, we visualize society as a judge and do our best to live up to the ideals of the judge. We look around in society for admirable people, and do our best to imitate them so that we can one day become “just like them”.
But our true desire isn’t really to abandon our individuality and BECOME the very person that we admire. We admire certain traits about these individuals in society (we can call them heroes), and we seek to integrate those traits within our own personalities to create better versions of ourselves.
The correct form of admiration is not necessarily to imitate the other person perfectly. Rather, it is to extract the essence of what makes that person admirable to you and integrate it within your being.
There’s a reason why there’s such a negative connotation to “copycats”. If you admire Dave Chappelle, you might first think that it is the “jokes” themselves that make him funny. You might also consider that it is the “persona” that he plays on stage.
(This is the case for many amateurs or beginners, so there’s nothing inherently negative about this attitude. They are slightly misguided of the true nature of what it means to be a comedian.)
So you might decide to repeat the jokes verbatim to your friends and family.
Perhaps it goes well because you’ve mastered the way he delivers the joke.
Perhaps it goes well because you’ve imbued some of the jokes with your unique personality (your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movements).
Perhaps you made people laugh, which strengthened your belief that “copying the person you admire without deviation” was the correct way to find success in this world.
But one day, you may tell the joke to a person or a group of people who are also familiar with Dave Chappelle’s work. They will not react in the manner that everyone else in your life has reacted, and may even give you distasteful and contemptuous looks.
They might call you a “phony” or a “copycat”, which will initially confuse and ultimately embarrass you because you start to grasp the short-sightedness of your belief.
What makes Dave Chappelle funny is the originality and uniqueness of his jokes. He imagines funny scenarios, writes them, practices how he will deliver them, and performs them on stage. Each joke is a risk and creative endeavor — he doesn’t know necessarily how the audience will respond, and the audience also doesn’t know what kind of humorous scenario he will conjure up in their minds.
Each joke is a risk because it can cause a devastating silence or an explosive uproar of laughter. The comedian risks lowering his social status every time he fails to make people laugh.
Considering this risk, we all admire the comedian for his courageous act. We know that it is hard to subject ourselves to the judgment of the crowd, so we can’t help but feel admiration for the individual who voluntarily takes on this “heroic” act.
Here I define “heroic” as the willingness of an individual to traverse into the unknown, which simultaneously consists of potential danger and creative transformation, and their ability to bring back to the rest of society something useful or valuable.
In the comedian’s case, he brings to the community a good laugh, hopefully one where they’re crying, having trouble breathing, or experiencing a gut-ache from laughing so hard.
When people find out that you are trying to take credit for another person’s original idea, they will not hold you in esteem.
In fact, your social status will lower in their eyes because they see you as a pseudo-hero, an imposter, an individual who could not embody the hero to produce a truly creative and original idea.
They will not respect you because they know that you have not truly walked the dangerous path that Dave Chappelle walked, that you are trying to reap the benefits without taking any risk, without having any skin in the game.
If you do not learn from this embarassment and grasp the true nature of hero imitation, you will be identified as a “fraud” or “impersonator” and will never truly be acknowledged in the same leageue as your hero (which was your initial goal to begin with).
The Importance of Trust and Truth In Society
We do not like cheaters within games (infidelity, thievery, deception, betrayal) because it breaks the inhabited dream of implicit trust and cooperation.
The structure of society helps us direct our time and attention to more useful, interesting, and productive activities. If we always had to distrust the people around us because we couldn’t assume that they would do what they said they’ll do (trust), we would have to expend a lot more energy trying to figure out other human beings so that we don’t end up getting scammed or physically and emotionally hurt.
If you couldn’t trust your mechanic to fix your car in a truthful and appropriate manner, you would have to spend valuable resource and time learning about the car and the technical skills that are necessary to fixing the car when you could have been investing them in other activities that are personally more engaging and interesting to you.
A functional and “good” society rests on a foundation of truth — it gives its citizens a certain degree of psychological comfort so that they can direct their mental and physical resources into productive activities.
Perhaps that’s why our ancient Western predecessors codified transcendent laws that they believed would be consistent across time (unchanging, permanent).
They believed following these divine revelations would uphold the stability of society and help people live in relative peace and cooperation.
These are not arbitrary rules, and we only see them as obvious and self-evident because they have been ingrained into the psyche and behavior of modern people throughout the generations.
Don’t kill. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t disrespect your parents. Don’t steal.
Disobey at your own psychological and physical peril.
Jordan Peterson believed that before we could articulate and codify human morality, we had to watch and judge right and wrong behaviors across time.
It’s not like morality is something that was (and still is) objective and obvious.
The only way a moral decision can be seen as “obvious” or “straightforward” is if the general collective (majority) believe and act as if it is inherently right. And we’ve seen as societies get more advanced, diverse, and complex that previous moral truths (slavery, women’s rights) become obsolete and even abominable.
The story of the conception of the 10 Commandments in the Bible is that while Moses was in the desert for 40 years with the Israelites, he served as a judge to solve moral issues that manifested themselves across time.
But he realized that he was spending too much time dealing with individual moral issues, for a group of people with conflicting interests and personalities will always give rise to difficult situations without obvious solutions.
He started to see repeating patterns of behavior and interpersonal conflicts, and wrestled with them to figure out the best solutions for these complex moral conundrums.
Then, with his accumulation of observations about the nature of humans, society, and the moral dilemmas he helped resolve, he was able to organize and articulate the rules that everyone else in society implicitly understood but could not organize well enough to articulate.
Codifying the rules made it so that people could have general rules to model their behaviors after, to act as a proxy judge so that Moses could utilize his time and effort in other things rather than sit and judge over moral situations all day.