"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's Trite? What's Not?

Last week a reader commented that one of my observations was “trite, but true.” Her comment didn’t bother me; instead it inspired me to wonder what the exact meaning of trite was, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

Here’s what I found:
Boring, not fresh or original.
Synonym: stereotyped, lacking the freshness that evokes attention or interest. Worn out by overuse so as to become dull and meaningless.

Life is so packed with paradox. I get what trite means in the dictionary sense. Overused phrases, tired sitcom themes, saccharin color schemes that remind me of social occasions - like holidays. Let’s not even get started on the downward spiral holiday memories are capable of evoking. Nothing about that little piece of collective unconscious is fresh or original.

But where does daily practice fit? I’ve spent ten years trying to stay in present time. Chopping wood. Carrying water. Keeping it simple. Living in the moment. Not jumping. What an interesting list of trite phrases. You might begin to think my life is boring. Not fresh or original.

And there’s the paradox. The activities that keep me centered, authentic, and real could easily be dismissed as trite. It’s all phrasing and context. How much outside influence have you bought into lately?

I propose that trite is a word so imbued with fear-based power it actually keeps us from engaging authentically with ideas, and by association, with right living. Heaven forbid something I think or write be dismissed as trite. Or that my life be judged uninteresting or boring. Not fresh or original.

What about the phrase new age? Remember how fresh and original new age used to be? On the brink of something. Open to creative thinking and an engaged approach to spirit. But somewhere along the line the meaning of new age shifted. No more fresh possibility. Only disdain for a phrase now considered the epitome of trite.

Which is why a healthy dose of skepticism is a valuable asset. When we hear words but never stop to think about them, we buy into a collective branding of our unique take on reality. When a whole set of deceptively simple ideas is dismissed as trite because advertising has the nerve to co-opt the veneer of a deep idea and drop it into a TV commercial, then we lose an important connection to the original profound thought.

It’s a challenge to stay in present time and keep analyzing the world and words around us. You have to embrace a little bit of rebel archetype - someone who is never afraid to say, “Oh yeah?”

And that’s what I’m choosing to do. Live my simple life and keep working on my authentic self – trite as it may sound. If I can live through the paradoxes of my own life then I can decide for myself what trite is. I don’t want to take thinking for granted. That’s the best trite-avoidance behavior I can engage in. I highly recommend it.


  1. Be authentic - I love it and I practice it. This is a beautiful post - we should never apologize for living our lives being who we want to be.

  2. Wonderful post.

    My personal gripe with much of the current New Age movement is its predisposition to skim feel-good sound bites off of profound truths and extract quick-fix solutions from spiritual activities whose power derives from patient, persistent practice. Thus, centuries of hard-won wisdom and exploration into the depth and breadth of existence may be dismissed in a breezy moment as yesterday's fad.

    Besides, is not much (or perhaps all) of life cyclical, a process of exploring familiar territory again and again with new eyes and enhanced awareness? How stunted and limited we would be if we refused to walk this path for fear of being trite.

  3. Oh but isn't triteness (if that's even a word) in the eye of the beholder? What's trite to one, may not be trite to another!

  4. Great post...thanks for the thoughts.

  5. Your life from my perspective is DEFINITELY not boring or original. No one engaged in "MAKE" at the level you are could possibly be boring or not original. However, after re-reading "Facing Down Fear" (that and "Memes" are two of my favorites and have been read several times), I am wondering if there was a misunderstanding re the reference to "trite" by the reader/commentor. He/she commented that "there is nothing to fear but fear itself" and then sort of apologized for using that (Franklin D. Roosevelt) quotation by observing that the quotation was "trite but true" probably because it has been around for a long time and has been used a lot by a lot of people. It seemed to me that the "trite but true" reference was about the quote rather than about your observations. Nevertheless, the blog "What's Trite? What's Not" was a reminder to be open to all thoughts and processes and ideas so we don't miss any possibility.

  6. Keep on keepin' on. Do the work. Fascinating, the ideas you come up with. My life could easily be trivialized by someone with just the facts--married, two children, retired teacher, church lady, quilter. But I am not trivial and neither is my life. We are the salt of the earth, we are learning and growing. Most of my thoughts have been said before, so maybe that makes them overused, but I have not been here before and I'm unique and sharing my gifts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you give me insight and courage.

  7. Harvey Pekar died today. He was quoted as saying, "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff." Could that be paraphrased to say, "A simple life is pretty complex stuff."?

  8. After nearly dying in a car wreck and having my last rites read to me, I had plenty of time to sit with myself and just be. It was during this 6 month time, sitting with my broken bones, concussions (3 of them), black eyes, vertigo, and not knowing if I would walk again, that I decided to just be ordinary. I've decided that ordinary is extraordinary. I went back to school and became an art therapist. I more fully pursued my fiber art work. Nearly losing my life changed my life and as I write this to share it feels, well, trite. We live in a culture that promotes hyper-individuality but there's something to be said for being a regular person with regular ideas. Just stumbled on your blog and I appreciate your thoughts - thanks :)

  9. I absolutely agree with Jane, emprint & K. Crayne; there is a media hypnotism of many decades that tells us we "must" be different, sexy, sassy, smart, stand out from the crowd...But when we put our attention on being/doing those things we lose touch with the unique being that we are.
    I also would seem to have a life of no extreme highs & lows, but the depth of experience, perception, gratitude & the ability to listen to my inner voice is something that is priceless beyond measure.
    May we be the yeast that leavans our society.

  10. Wonderful post. I am going to have a post soon and will link to you here. I have just turned 58 and have thought about the word 'trite' a lot lately. This post is just want I needed. Thanks.