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.

  • 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