Lukas Z's Blog

Seminal Work and the Rest

I am currently reading a book by Joseph Campbell. It’s called “Myths to Live By”.

I have never read anything by him before. I just bought it because the guy playing Edward Snowden in the movie trailer mentioned it. (Why not, right?)

Oh and he also is the one that came up with the concept of the Hero’s Journey.

And by .. god, or by all the gods he mentions in this book.. what a humbling experience this book is.

How can someone pack so much information about a broad subject in just one book? With so much clarity and.. precision?

For example I’ve read quite a bit about Buddhism, but I am not sure I have ever read anything better about Buddhism. And it’s not even a book about Buddhism! It’s just mentioned in a chapter or two.

It’s really humbling.

It made me think about the notion of a “seminal work”. It’s the one others refer to.

If it were a website, it would surely have a great Google Page Rank. (Top of the first page, just below the ads..)

Is it perhaps the rule that breakthroughs happen through the work of individuals? Or relatively small groups of people?

I am thinking about the physicists in the 19th and early 20th century. Planck, Einstein and the others. Or about the founding fathers of the United States. Or about the first Drum n Bass album.

There are these events, they spark something. Inspire others. They make humanity take a leap. They are the opposite of mediocrity.

We’re very lucky to have those people.

But let me return to books..

Authors that follow can take a book and summarize it. That’s useful. It’s great for a quick overview. They can of course also develop their own ideas on top of it. But they are not as groundbreaking.

Sometimes they are just rehashing. Repackaging. Simplifying. Popularizing.*

Which is also fine, but..

I only want to read the seminal works. Only the best.

And who knows.. if I read enough.. perhaps one day.. I myself.. nah.

What would I even write about? But that’s another topic. :)

P.S.: Youtube is also full of of people summarizing books and ideas from those books, of course. That’s pretty great, too.

* = It reads a bit like popularizing is somehow less worthy. Even though Campbell, who inspired me to write this post, is, as far as I know, a popularizer first and foremost. At least for me, who only knows one of his books. My point is, he impressed me by making the difference between a brilliant man like him and, I guess, the rest of us, apparent. (Also please excuse me, I am not really putting that much thought into these posts. They are like a download from my head onto the blog. I mean they take roughly as long to write as it takes to type them. But I should put more effort in! I do not want to waste anyones time, after all. However, while this may be a subject if debate - if anyone cares at all about this random blog, of course - I think the posts so far are ok. They each get something across. There was one so far that I had finished but which I deleted afterwards. Because it was saying nothing.)

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