Cliché- To Avoid It Is To Define It

Che or Cliché Guevara

What are the thousands of people wearing Che’s photo on their T-Shirts trying to prove?

How can we define a cliché? The word itself is a cliché. To avoid using cliché is a cliché. To actually like a cliché may not be a cliché or maybe it is.

With 4000 years of history and a seven billion population what are the chances of something, anything to be completely fresh and new?

Clichés are a queer inherent paradox of life. They are a paradox since as part of our herd behavior we tend to do what everybody does and yet we also try to be unique at the same time. The age-old struggle between conformity and individuality. Going with the group gives us a measure of security and comfort that if something goes wrong we are not alone, nothing will go wrong for so many. So we choose the same jobs as most, despite our inner desires. We are careful about the stuff we spend money on and so we go to popular restaurants, read best sellers, watch top grossing movies and so on. The keyword in the previous sentence is “popular”. Going for something popular is what everyone does. Then when does the popular turn into a cliché?


When the popular is replaced by something else and yet people keep going for the older version out of habit. Upcoming, popular, clichéd, old-fashioned are the stages in the life of a social trend. And corresponding to the trends there are always a less sizable bunch of rebels (who actually keep reinventing the ‘upcoming’). And the ways the rebels react again falls into a pattern and when people start following a rebel, the spark is lost. Isn’t it ironical? In order to defy a system, you fall into another system. If you really want something fresh and new, come up with it yourself. Else your self-perceived mutiny doesn’t make a dram of difference to the world.

But is it really possible to come up with something no one has thought of before? I think there are 2 answers to it – yes and no. The road of a pioneer is a hard one – strewn with disappointments, frustration and a lifetime of ridicule. Few live long enough to see a day when their work is truly appreciated. But in any case you never know if some person in some far away place didn’t already do it before you and your breakthrough may have come few years or even days too late. So in a very broad sense, doing something for the first time or inventing something is a rare privilege requiring an incredible amount of skill, hard-work and luck.

And yet, though it may lose its importance to the masses, your effort and idea was your own. I call it a personal invention. I thought of it, I followed it I achieved it. Someone did it before – kudos to him. But that does not diminish the personal significance of carving out your life yourself.

Recently I had a vision of a plan to breakaway from the trite uninspiring lives we lead. I found solace in travel, in the joy of finding the unknown. And I realized the value of accidental learning – the singular experiences that teach you more in an instant than what you learn hunched over a desk for a decade. As I decided to rethink my future, I had started this blog to help me with documenting my plans and thoughts along the way. And I start looking deeper to find I was far away from being the first person to do it. There are hundreds of folks like me, people with my background and my dreams, there are even corporations run by such people to help others like them. It was a mixed feeling that I was having then. The bright empowered feeling of being a pioneer slowly faded away and it was replaced by a momentary tinge of doubt if I was truly trying to break away from a system. But then all was replaced with a warm glow of understanding that after all my decision was my own.

There is just one way not be a cliché – think and decide for yourself. Make your own path, be a stone in the pond. Like a lone wolf howling in the night, make a sound to be heard. And chances are there would be other wolves scattered away in distant forests who will listen and howl along with you.


2 thoughts on “Cliché- To Avoid It Is To Define It

  1. Reply anwesham Jun 23,2013 10:24 pm

    I have always wondered about cliches. About stereotypes and how they all come to be. I have also wondered if there is anything I ever do- no matter how petty and small- that has not been done by someone previously before. But you are right. I agree, it is your own journey on how you came upon doing it. That journey is your own, nobody can stake a claim to it.

    • Reply Barun Mishra Jun 25,2013 12:52 am

      In my work and life, one thing that always bugs me as well as helps me is how well the Google search works. The very fact that is works so well is proof of the fact that it has been done before, thought upon. Some people had the same questions, a tiny fraction of them took the pains to post them online, a tinier group had the answers and yet an even more tiny group took the time to answer it and you can find so many answers to most of your questions – so think how many people are there thinking the same thing as you. Doing the same thing as you. So its statistically improbable that you can doing something or finding something or facing something for the first time. This thought boots all notion, of “special individual”, out of the park.

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