Embracing the Clichéd

In today’s society, where individualism is hailed as one of the highest virtues, we are often afraid of being too clichéd. The phrase, “That’s such a cliché!” is used as an insult. But sometimes I find myself wondering, is it really such a bad thing to be somewhat predictable, normal, or even unoriginal? Some things are clichéd for a reason. Because they have stood the test of time and multitudes and still hold true. I’ve taken flack from plenty of friends and sometimes my own alter-ego, for my desire to move to the suburbs. And I must admit, the individualistic, young, and still edgy side of me cringes at the idea of moving into a cookie cutter, “stepford” neighborhood, with picket fences, matching roof lines and tiny trees. But not all the suburbs are so scary. And some things are more important than being in the middle of it all. Like my son’s education. I certainly see the value in sticking it out and fighting for better education in the city rather than fleeing, but I will not use my son’s future as a weapon in that battle. And then there’s crime. Does staying put and risking the robbery of my possessions and possible harm of my family help bring crime levels down in the city or should we just move to where it is safer? But considering these things makes me wonder if I have been too quick to judge others in the past. Most of the suburbanites have probably had similar lines of reasoning that brought them to where they are today. Most of them probably have histories and lives every bit as interesting as mine, or more so. And yet I have been guilty of looking at them and thinking, “What a cliché!” We are taught from such an early age to never judge a book by its cover and yet we fight judgementalism well into adulthood and old age.

Yesterday, as my son and I were downtown enveloped in a sea of people who had gathered to celebrate Independence Day, I found myself looking around at all the faces and imagining the stories behind their eyes. We are all on wildly different journeys, and yet, too often we tend to approach people as though they should be in the same place we are. The whole event for which all these people had come together was, in and of itself, an incredible cliché. Americana at its finest. There were flags and people in patriotic attire, face painting and glow sticks, catfish and burgers, and an orchestral band playing “Yankee Doodle.” There were kids everywhere and frazzled parents trying to keep up with them. There were lawn chairs and lovers making eyes at each other. And of course, there were fireworks. But there was something beautiful and calming about the cliché. So many different people, from different walks of life and in different places in their journey, coming to celebrate the same thing. And celebrate it in the same way it has been celebrated for generations. It may be a cliché, but it is a damn good one and I’m happy I was part of it.

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain,
all leading in the same direction,
so it doesn’t matter which path you take.
The only one wasting time is the one
who runs around and around the mountain,
telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.
~Hindu teaching