Data: Strictly speaking, sir, it is not my playing. It is a precise imitation of the techniques of Jascha Heifetz and Trenka Bronkin.
Picard: Is there nothing of Data in what I’m hearing? You see, you chose the violinists. Heifetz and Bronkin have radically different styles, different techniques, and yet…you combined them.
–Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Ensigns of Command”
It’s supposed to be dangerous when you hear voices, but the truth is, I have lots of voices in my head. I’m not sure if there could be a me if I didn’t. I have my mother’s voice, and my father’s voice. They have their different perspectives, their different values, their different jokes. I have both of my brothers’ voices. I have voices from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ursula Le Guin, Ian Flemming (that’s the guy who wrote James Bond), and a whole lot of commercials. That’s what commercials are designed to do–stick in your head. Some of the voices I don’t want there. Some of them I do. Some of them I try to ignore. Some of them I listen to.
I wonder if a lot of life comes from which voices you have inside, and how you listen to them.
We talk so much about finding yourself, and about developing your ideas. Those are good things. They’re not the only things. There are a lot of sayings I could go to for help with this: Sir Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” T. S. Eliot: “The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique […]; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.” Whatever good ideas and insights I’ve had, they were made from borrowed pieces: lessons I took from my parents, habits and hopes from my friends, perspectives from poets. Little seashells of grace, borrowed from the beach, and raindrops caught in my open hands. There’s that old question: is Data human? I don’t know, but I want to be more like him. He’s open to learning from so many others.
This, all of this, it’s not my playing. But in playing it I’m becoming me. I’m making myself from you, and you, and you. As I do, I become something: a collection, an intention, a person. I become the kind of thing that other people can use in their threading, too. And I can wonder: when I braid tomorrow, what strands will I choose?