The importance of understanding originality leads to a better appreciation of progress

Image of man holding a cell phone from the 1980s and of a woman holding an iPhone with the text "Then" and "Now"

Love it or hate, we all know it: The Harlem Shake. You Tube videos involving children and CEOs, professional athletes and military personnel, and oh so many more! There's a role for everyone, mostly because very little dance talent or coordination is required. Which, coming from someone who struggles with the Wobble, sounds pretty appealing!

I came across this one, Harlem Reacts to "Harlem Shake videos".

The people of Harlem (and, I would venture to guess, anyone who learned the original Harlem Shake in the 1980s) would never recognize today's Harlem Shake dance moves as deserving the same title as the original old school hip-hop dance. In fact, if you've seen the video, they get pretty defensive about the whole thing.

Whenever we are part of the era in which something was founded, it is natural for us to be protective of the authenticity of the matter. My grandfather still uses his typewriter to write letters, not because he is anti-technology, but because when his electric typewriter came out, it WAS the technology! And if he ever were to use a word processor he would probably use Truetypewriter© or a similar font, because that's how letters should look. Grandpa's just being protective of a letter's authenticity.

At times it is important to protect authenticity. I love to read. And I love to watch movies. Often I discover a line of a book or a movie that I just LOVE, and when I post it to facebook or twitter I credit the author. But if I proceed to use that line or quote as a motto for myself or as inspiration to write something, like a blog, it's very easy to forget where that quote originated. There are all kinds of quotes online that, depending on the source, were "originally" said by different famous people. We need to be protective of this type of authenticity.

In other cases, it's good to bring something up to date or redefine a definition. That's called progress, and it's an important element on which our country was founded. I know that when I say "cell phone" today, hardly anyone thinks of the five pound chunk of plastic with a vinyl case that my uncle had when we were kids. It's a good thing that the cell phone has evolved into what it has today, and it will continue to evolve, even though we will (likely) continue to refer to it as a cell phone.

The important idea here is that when we stay connected with the originality of something, or the story behind how it came to be, we will be more appreciative of the updated version. That's history, and it allows us to be more authentic in our communication. THAT is a good thing.

Oh, and here's how to do the Original Harlem Shake.

Image courtesy of