Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Really stupid words, Chapter 21.

Sometimes, perfectly good words get overused and abused and stretched to the point that they become stupid. One such word that has been stirring my curmudgeonly coals of late is “journey.”

At its core it is a fine word, describing “travel or passage from one place to another,” the key word being place. While it can be suggestive of other things, place generally indicates a physical location. That notion is forgotten more often than not nowadays when it comes to journeys.

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu voiced what must be the most famous saying about “journey” when he said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The implication of moving from one physical location to another is surely implicit, if not explicit. Still, the saying and the source have contributed to the dilution of the meaning of journey. More to blame, perhaps, is a bumper sticker phrase of uncertain origin and many iterations: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Notice how the idea of going from one actual, physical place to another is missing, watering down the meaning of “journey” to the point where it can be applied to anything, everything, and nothing.

The New Age (which elevated Lao Tzu and his sayings) and all its psychobabble latched onto the word back in the 1970s and there has been no turning back. Healing and transformation became a journey, along with your health and wellness journey, your recovery journey, your emotional growth journey, and your soul journey. And, of course, our spiritual and religious journeys.

Now, even unfortunate situations like fighting cancer have become journeys. So have trivial situations, like my hair loss journey. Grief became a journey. Education is a journey. So is weight loss. Business has latched onto the idea with a passion, tracking customer journeys, service journeys, training and development journeys, leadership journeys, workday journeys….

Writers are not immune to the infection. Seldom have I attended a conference where the “hero’s journey” wasn’t held up as the essence of most any and every piece of literature. (I confess ignorance of its finer points.) And, of course, we are each on our personal writing journey.

That’s all for now. While the “journey” journey may be an endless journey, we’ve come far enough on our journey for one day.