I am tired of cliches. There I said it. Since the advent of the digital age or the internet, cliches about how to live have multiplied and can be characterized as “a dime a dozen’’.
Cliches are not the same thing as principles. Cliches are attempts at reducing appropriateness of behavior to a sentence. Take for instance the cliche,
Silence is Golden.
Well silence was not golden for President Donald Trump this last weekend. Eventually the President had to say something meaningful about the Charlottesville debacle — words that would show without any ambiguity that he does not condone, believe in, or support racism of any sort. Silence certainly did not turn out to be golden.
There is another bad cliche that relates to silence, which is:
Silence is the best answer for a fool.
Applied to the Charlottesville debacle, people who clamored for a response from President Trump over the weekend and got nothing were fools. By Monday when the President really addressed the issue, these people miraculously transformed from fools to wise people. Can a cliche whose predictions change between Saturday of one week and Monday of the next really be any good?
A cliche I came across that really got my innards going is the one that says (I paraphrase):
You are what you watch or read.
Egads. Someone is advocating we read without discrimination, without interpretation, without a focus on sieving of what is useful and good from what needs to be discarded.
When we watch movies appropriately, we see good and evil, are supposed to pick what is good, empathize with flawed characters that desire to do what is right because we also are at best flawed, and reject evil actions and motives embedded in the movie. This is why movies typically end with good triumphing over evil.
Whenever a movie ends with evil triumphing over good, I reject the premise in such a movie. If I know ahead of time a movie has such a premise, I really do not want to watch it not because I cannot sieve through the content but because it attempts to sell outcomes that are not desirable for society.
A world in which evil triumphs over good sustainably and ubiquitously is a world nobody in their right mind wants to live in.
If we celebrate movies with bad premise, we celebrate outcomes that we do not want to see realized in real life. Bad premises in movies can only be defeated by rejection of such movies on the part of consumers. Since we typically are unable to assess a movie until we watch it, rejection of a bad premise within a movie is evidence we are watching with discrimination.
We have minds and we use them, as such are not supposed to become what we watch or read.
We become what we celebrate in life. If we celebrate goodness and apply effort towards becoming good, we become good. If we celebrate evil or negative attitudes, without any exertion of effort this is what we become.
We are not what we watch or read.
The last cliche I deal with is often cited because it is attributed (I am sure out of context) to Einstein, which is:
Madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.
If this is true, just kill me. But how can this be true? By the standard of this cliche, Allied Forces, who mostly lost battles during the Second World War between 1939 and D-Day in 1943 were mad to continue to fight Hitler. By this standard, Abraham Lincoln, who probably lost more elections than he won was mad. By this standard, an academic who submits a paper to a journal and has the paper rejected suffers from madness if he dares submit another paper to the same journal. There are lots of academics, however, who have papers accepted in journals that previously had rejected a paper. Since the new paper submitted differed from the prior paper, there are grounds for a change in outcome. The academic, however, has done exactly the same thing for an acceptance as a rejection. He has written a paper and submitted it to the same journal. The same action, yet a different outcome because the dynamics of the action are different.
Actions cannot be characterized outside of their dynamics or their motives.
I am right so do not kill me. The Sun rises every day, but not always at the same time. The moon is present every night, but not always with the same brightness. Allied Forces fought in different ways between 1939 and 1945. Abraham Lincoln lost different elections, academics submit different papers to the same journal.
The earth rotates around the sun always at the same angle to the sun. Einstein and astrophysicists all agree we live in a space-time continuum, meaning space is not the same at different points in time. In order for the earth to remain tilted at the same angle to the sun when both space and time have changed, there must be dynamics changing over time that keep the outcome or action (tilt angle to the sun) exactly the same. The dynamics are different, yet actions are the same.
Dynamics of actions are more important than generic characterizations of actions.
In ancient times, philosophers got their street cred from regard for their teachers. If you had a great teacher like Plato or Socrates you had street cred. Today, everyone wants to be a philosopher, but without desire for street cred and without recognition of the fact that cliches are not the same thing as principles. Let’s face it, all of the 5, 10, or 20 things to do to become successful or rich are nothing but attempts at reducing principles of life to cliches.
We are not supposed to become successful or rich by imitation. We are supposed to become successful by getting to know and coming to terms with who we are in this life. This is why a person who in their hearts wants to be a musician can be miserable making a lot of money as a medical doctor, realize this and transition to becoming a musician. Getting to know who we are and coming to terms with who we are requires effort. Living by cliches is much easier.
Philosophy is about enunciation of principles. This is why a PhD is labelled a “Doctor of Philosophy”. In the labeling of a PhD to be a “Doctor of Philosophy”we agree in society that people who philosophize need to sit under teachers of such stature before they can be considered to have preparation for philosophizing.
Attempts at reducing right or wrong responses to single sentences or cliches are fraught with danger, falsities, and words that portend to be wisdom but in attempts at simplification, become inappropriate as general prescriptions.
If we are to remain a civilized society and become more civilized as opposed to less civilized, we must discard cliches for principles or philosophies of life. We owe no less to future generations.