More Than a Thousand Words

Wed, Aug 5, 2020 4-minute read

I strongly dislike clichés as they often stand in the way of a person’s intention (because, being clichés they are often overloaded with too much meaning). They detract from what in most cases can be something of actual value if it was to be phrased in a different manner. Take for instance “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is a broad over statement. For one thing a photograph can say much more, yet at the same time it can say almost nothing. Let us avoid the argument that one thousand is the average and look at them for what they are. Pictures are a visual medium that allows us to express ourselves in ways that words do not always allow.

And photo do not always say the same thing. Take for instance this lovely abstract photo for instance. What does it say to you?

Abstract photo

An abstract photo can say a lot to one and little to another. If you were to ask me what I thought of the photo, what I saw, and what it says to me (though you can’t, not with the nature of this conversation) you would certainly hear something you did not see in it.

Do you embrace the colors, the atmosphere, or the composition? Or is it rather a combination of all of these things that build up upon one another to make an over arching sense of emotion? Now, if that is the case your challenge is to compose that in a thousand words, ensuring to describe those different sensations. The likelihood that you can do this in less than a thousand words is fairly high. Mine was slipped into the last two paragraphs, and yet everything was said that needed to be said. Of course you can go further and express correlations, and, with that relate experiences that are close to you and your personal experience.

Illustration is also expressive

Do illustrations count the same a photographs? What can this illustration tell you?

Here are some questions that I asked as soon as I saw it:

  • Why are The Man in the Moon’s eyes crossed?
    • Does he see something we do not? An astronaut on his face perhaps? Is he looking at the earth?
  • Why is it an illustration of The Man in the Moon? Why not The Woman in the Moon? The eyes and lips look quite feminine to me. Does the artist see this image when they look at the moon? Is this a cultural relic that inspires us to this day?
    • The Man in the Moon refers to any of several pareidolic images of a human face, head or body that certain traditions recognize in the disc of the full moon. Pareidolia is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. Pareidolia can be considered a subcategory of apophenia.
  • Why did the artist choose the colors they did? Do they reflect the emotions that they feel when viewing the night sky?

The list can easily go on, but as you can see there is plenty of room to expand. Each of those topics could be explored and looked at from numerous different perspectives. All of them valid and liable to produce more than a thousand words when fully expressed.

Clichés are a sort of cultural shorthand that, like idioms and expressions, have been over burdened with use. They give us a means to express something quickly but without meaning. They are repetitious and thus fall into the category marked “Little Value.” You can’t say much when you use clichés to do the talking for you. The impede your intention and your listeners will only be able to take away what they have been conditioned to hear.

We were given the ability to express ourselves clearly, why take a lazy approach to something so valuable?