Idea and Embellishment

An idea or thought is pure and unadulterated. An idea can be about anything. It may lead to a trip, a festival, a revolution, a war, a book, or even poetry.

Unadulterated, an idea is just what it is, an idea – a thought.

But ideas and thoughts have become powerless and ineffective on their own in our civilization. Unless they are embellished.

Embellishing an idea or a thought takes many forms. What was the idea behind a festival? Nobody remembers, we celebrate the embellishment. What was the idea behind a book? We celebrate the discussions. the reviews, the book club discussions, or the bans about it. What was the idea behind a photograph? We discuss whether it was taken from an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S3 or an SLR and whether and what zoom lens was used. What was the idea behind composing poetry? We adorn it with vocabulary most don’t have. What was the idea behind a script that was made into a movie? We embellish it with music and songs and dance that have no integrity with the idea.

Adorning any idea with an embellishment has become a way of life in our culture. Without embellishment, it seems, one cannot reach the mass audience. Do we need to reach the mass audience every time? We have lost the ability to communicate ideas to each other.

When was the last time you encountered an idea without embellishment?

An idea can be at the level of genius. It is often original. We have come to disrespect originality and disrespect ideas. Even a god needs to be embellished by a huge church or a temple with dozens of flowers, without which one is apparently not able to experience the godliness. Embellishment is being used to draw attention, rather than the idea itself.

We have come to want and need embellishment. But.

Embellishment turns an idea into mediocrity.

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  • Very true. It seems that in the age of Instagram, we have lost the ability to see the world without lenses (metaphorically speaking). Embellishment pervades everything we do. Re-discovering that primal purity is something we should aspire to do.

    • Thank you. Yes, can’t agree with you more. Instagram is yet-another-embellishment of the idea that the true experience is.

    • Instagram is successful in communicating the built-in nostalgia (“we will remember this moment”) or impressionistic feeling of a moment in the present-day. Instagram facilitates artistic representations of the reality we perceive. When authentic (as William pointed out above), these representations are an apt embellishment and deliver a more complex reality to the viewer — a conflation of the reality an unfiltered image would convey and the reality the photographer felt.
      — Rachel

  • Raw ideas tend to be inaccessible to common folk, because raw ideas tend to be too abstract/ conceptual/ obscure/ esoteric (think quantum physics) to be understood and appreciated by people at large. As Einstein said – make things as simple as possible but not simpler. Hence the need to “storify” an idea (if that’s what you meant by embellishment).

    I don’t think there’s a need to lament this … neither the phenomenon itself nor the reason behind it. However, if an oversimplified narrative *about* the idea goes viral and threatens to *become* the idea, then we have a problem.

    • Thank you. In my life, I am suffering the embellishment in so many different ways that i can’t even count and have not enumerated in my post. But there are many, many, and just so many that they pervade our existence in ways that even we may not know.

      The oversimplified narrative *about* an idea *becoming* an idea is the deadlist manifestation of the problem. Thank you for that insight.

    • That brings up another option, one where the embellishment and idea are unified, and inseperable.

    • Well noted. Oversimplified narratives pervade society, but thought leaders can always recognize when essential components are missing, and they will suss them out and attempt to relate them to segments of the public that readily accept surface-level interpretations.
      — Rachel

  • “Belief shifts. People start out believing in the god and end up believing in the structure. Abraxas says here: ‘Around the Godde there forms a Shelle of prayers and Ceremonies and Buildings and Priestes and Authority, until at Last the Godde Dies. Ande this maye notte be noticed.’”—Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

  • Brijesh Kartha

    The finger points to the moon
    Tis folly to focus on the finger
    when the intention is to better appreciate the moon;

    but the finger was necessary
    for without it
    you would never have looked up.

    • Ha ha, that’s a good point 🙂

  • In other words, authenticity is key. Great points.

  • Genius is not intrinsic to an idea — it is the context in which the idea appears. A genius idea is surrounded by a context which exclaims “you are so right for me!” The “embellishment” you refer to is essentially the manifestations of that idea in tangible forms which we might experience via our senses, and thus feel the idea’s impact, and remember it as significant. You ask too much of humans by requiring that they respond to ideas (and communicate with one another) on the level of unembellished purity.
    — Rachel Kowalczyk, Managing Editor, Amble Resorts