Influence

Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.” – unknown

I went back to look at footage of an interview with Madonna in 2012 that has stuck in my mind. In the interview, she’s being asked about Lady Gaga’s music and she calls it “reductive.” Something about her facial expression made it stand out when I watched it even though I’m not deep into either of those artists’ work.

When I went back and watched it, I saw a lot of things that I didn’t remember. The ABC News interviewer was really pushing Madonna to say something unkind about Lady Gaga’s music – to weigh in on some perception of “feud” that was being circulated online. Madonna says a number of things about influence and being amused before being pushed to call Born This Way reductive. When the interviewer pushes further to ask what that means, Madonna gets this sassy look on her face and says, “Look it up.”

According to the Oxford Dictionary, it means, “tending to present a subject or problem in a simplified form, especially one viewed as crude.” Setting aside the issue of what we do to celebrities to try to stoke a controversy or conflict, I suspect I’ve always remembered this because I wonder if what we all do is reductive.

Speaking for myself, I think everything I do is derivative or reductive of someone else’s work. I’m endlessly influenced by the books I read, especially the Mark Nepo and Frederick Buechner meditation books that I read every morning before I write. But more than that, I’m influenced by all the posts I read from everyone else and the podcasts I listen to when driving. I try to carefully quote and link when I use material but often times what I get is inspiration or ideas about how to think about a topic.

Celebrity feud aside – isn’t what we are here to do to influence each other? And isn’t that an honor to be a part of someone else’s path? I’m not talking about plagiarism or giving credit where credit is due – but just knowing that our content might touch one other person in a way that is meaningful, isn’t that a good thing?

(featured photo from Pexels)