Monday, March 24, 2014

the kitsch of clichés

clichés go down better when painted on driftwood

i had an experience this evening which is increasingly bewildering to me, the more i ponder it. it was a supposedly inspirational talk by a self-styled "poetic clown, philosophical humorist or humorous philosopher, a spiritual pirate who juggles words like a verbal bubblebath." you might guess that these are direct translations from his own description of himself. well, this aging hippie (they're all aging now, aren't they?), spent nearly two hours rattling off the most astonishing array of aphorisms and clichés (is there a difference?) heard outside of a stephen covey seminar, all while sprinkling this oral diarrhea with sexist jokes and read-aloud newspaper clippings shown on an overhead projector. the overhead projector i could have dealt with as a kind of hipster retro thing, but it seemed quite unironically meant. i think it may have represented the extent of his technological capabilities.

here are a few of the gems i managed to scribble down before i was overcome by incredulousness at what i was hearing...and bear in mind that they were just spouted ad nauseum, without any real connection.

"how can you have a comeback if you've never been anywhere?"

"without cultural ballast, you can't navigate a life."

"they know the price of everything but the value of nothing."

"it's healthy to live for fun but no fun to live healthily."

"the direction is more important than the speed."

"we've got short-term politicians and long-term problems." (i'll grant that this one rings a little bit true.)

"get up in the morning with expectations and go to bed with experiences."

there were many, many more, a dizzying array more. each more clichéd than the last.

but most worrying of all was the audience's reaction. they. loved. it. they were rolling on the floor laughing. they ate it up, like it was porridge drenched in butter, cream and fresh maple syrup. and it was about as stickily sweet as that. even worse, several people i talked to said they found him so inspiring. i do wonder what they were inspired to do (other than slit their wrists or bite down on the cyanide capsule)? i weep for the world. are we really so unreflected as that? do we really want to be spoon-fed pap delivered rapid fire and supposedly disguised as sage advice?

they lined up during the break to plop down $30 (150kr) on his book, in which he had collected even more aphorisms. he also had planks of driftwood (see above) with aphorisms painted on them in 70s style hand-lettering (that, at least, i could appreciate, the hand-lettered type, not the clichés). i don't think he sold any of those, but i'm also not sure he was trying to, as they belonged to some old wooden boat he has, which he said "sails around with a load of thoughts." as if. a load of shite, more like.

why do people seem to need such easy clichés and what on earth about them makes people characterize them as inspiring? if they were really inspiring, we'd all go home and change our lives...begin painting our own thoughts on driftwood (oh wait, i already do that) and go dancing through the grocery store (one of his suggestions). but no one is really going to do that.

these things are a bit like horoscopes, we can reflect whatever cares are on our minds onto them, picking and choosing the ones that we feel really speak to us. but why do we want to be spoken to in such platitudes? and why do they seem to make people feel so good? the mood afterwards was buoyant and people really felt entertained and inspired. except for me. i was shocked at all of the degrading comments he made about women (they can be home secretary but never foreign secretary was just one) and far more horrified than inspired. in fact i wasn't inspired at all. really pretty much just disappointed in my fellow townspeople. how on earth could they buy into such kitsch?

am i just a total snob or is there really something wrong with the world?


Ariadne said...

Was it the first time you felt this? I can see it around me all the time. People are only looking on the surface of things, accepting the easy to digest humour and their only motto is to have fun!They don't bother to read, to study, to get informed from multiple sources and then they blame politicians for every misfortune in their lives. Who elects them? Who gives power to any "clown" when we don't open our mouth to talk about issues and people like the person you just mentioned?AriadnefromGreece!

Unknown said...

Nah, nothing wrong with this world that a strong colonic couldn't fix.

Seriously, guys like this have been selling snake oils ever since someone invented rubes, fools and the gullible.

Spilling Ink said...

That crap sells though and that's what worries me. Seems the less most people have to think the happier they are. Me, I'm cursed, I think all the time and what you just described drives me around the bend. I consider myself unfortunate. :P