Modern Equals Traditional


T.S. Eliot once said:

Tout ce qui est nouveau est par ce fait automatiquement traditionnel. 

Translated: Everything that is new is thereby automatically traditional. 

I first heard this quote just the other day. Odile, a character in Bande À Part, recites it in her English class. It stuck out to me. It’s a beautiful thought, but what really does it mean? This troubled me. I don’t know if I should take it literally, meaning anything new is never new, because that troubles me even more. How am I suppose to be a creative individual who goes through a creative process to create something original when that something isn’t actually original? Is anything anyone has ever created already been a past idea? Are my ideas not my own? This thought is almost crippling, as I’m paying $40,000 dollars a year at an art school, an environment for “creative” individuals. If I take this quote literally, the word “creative” may as well not exist, and what kind of world would we live in then?

I don’t want to take this literally, nor do I believe that’s what the quote actually means. If you look at it a different way, it becomes a beautiful idea.

Dusk is my favorite time of day. The sun has already set, leaving behind blue and lilac streaks in the horizon.  The air is crisp and burns your cheeks on your way home. I was looking out at Lake Michigan, at least what’s left to see with all of the ice, and saw the darkening sky engulf what was in front of me. It’s the end of another day. But while it may be ending here, it’s just beginning somewhere else.

Tout ce qui est nouveau est par ce fait automatiquement traditionnel. 

A new day brings new hope. With the beginning of a new day comes a fresh start; everything is new. But across the globe, another day is coming to a close. With the ending of another day comes resolutions (hopefully) and rest.

This analogy isn’t perfect nor may it be what Eliot meant (I apologize in his honor) but this is how I interpret his words.

This post should…hopefully will reside with everyone, not just art students, who is struggling or feeling stuck (myself included).

I wake up every morning having the potential to create and design my destiny. By the end of the day, I’m one step closer to figuring it out (trying). This quote, instead of crippling me, has made me excited to try new things and go new places. Most importantly, it makes that $40,000 education worth every penny.


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