Lately, I have been slagging off phrases that annoy me, simply because everyone repeats them, from car ads to technology companies, inspirational phrases like, “It’s at the heart of what we do” – or – “It’s in our DNA”, which every goddamn BBC documentary has wheeled out for the last three or four years, and I feel frustrated that nobody can see them for what they are – terrible cliches that get repeated over and over again.
And then, like all times I go off on a mental witch-hunt, I start to feel uneasy, and wonder if perhaps I haven’t done the same thing in some distant past.
There was a song that I had liked on a mixtape back in the noughties. I had looked it up at the time and found out it was French — and then forgotten what it was; but the dynamic violin in this song had stayed with me, and so recently, I searched for it again, knowing that it was by Jean-Luc Ponty, but not knowing it’s name. I discovered that it was called ‘Individual Choice’.
Now ‘individual choice’ was a term that I remembered people using a lot in heated conversations in coffee-shops when I was fresh out of high-school discovering the counter-culture of innercity Sydney. Absorbing it myself, it soon began to crop up in my own heated conversations with friends — along with other phrases like ‘fatal flaw.’
So in a sentence it would sound something like,
“I think that no matter what happens in life, everybody has individual choice; it’s up to them whether they want to do something good, or something bad — except, maybe, for that fatal flaw that trips them up, like greed or anger, and that’s only because they don’t have the courage to be true to themselves.”
Aha! — There is another one: ‘be true to yourself.’
Despite having it all wrapped up back then, philosophically, I was, without knowing it, part of a greater conspiracy, where words, poetic images and metaphors, all come down from above, from the popular books, pop ideologies and movies of the time, spread sideways by good old-fashioned human contact.
And so there it was — I had been perpetuating exactly the same crime that I was now angry at others for, except that I just couldn’t see it back then: I was too close to the coalface!
In all honesty, I think that it is important to try and wrestle yourself free of cliches, and find some images and metaphors that have to do with your own life experience — and not just something you’ve picked up along the way; though it’s not always so easy to do.
But I also think it’s important to try and soothe an overactive mind with memory-inducing, galaxy-tripping, zeitgeist-smashing music — and that’s why this post is also about Jean Luc-Ponty: he is an ass-kicker from way-back!