Clichés of the Mind

“But she finds it so difficult to verbalize Charles, dear. It helps her if she can quote instead of working out words of her own.”

– A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle

The rosy fingered Dawn stretched its fingers over the wine dark sea, and I, sitting at my desk, pondered the choking sensation caused by too many clichés.

It’s fine for Mrs. Who, from A Wrinkle In Time to speak entirely in quotes because she is several billion years old, and it’s difficult for her to materialize. Indeed, the quotes she chooses add a deeper meaning the situation. Also, I have been wanting to quote her for years.

Clichés, on the other hand, sap meaning like a host of mosquitoes sap the energy of campers in a swamp.

Speaking in clichés isn’t a problem so much as thinking in clichés. Culture is built on clichés of the mind. The world is too complicated to make 10 billion new decisions every second, so we need shortcuts.

If we want to say what we really feel, however, we have to throw out our usual ways of thinking and put a whole new set of words to amorphous experience. It’s hard to reject the hosts of almost, but not quite, perfect phrases.

It’s necessary though. If you never throw out the clichés, thinking is like ballroom dancing in a storage shed.

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