Why I Love Metaphor
It is easier to think about something while thinking about something else, than it is to think about a thing when trying to think about it. Unknown
Most of you probably know that I love metaphor. This blog is a review of why I love metaphor, written for me, and shared in case it is of interest to you. You may also love metaphor, many do. They have been respected for many years. The greatest thing by far is to be master of metaphor, Aristotle. Following is a combination of my reasons why thinking metaphorically is helpful, and some quotes of my favorite metaphors.
For me, metaphors (and similes) can generate new ways of thinking that are novel and revealing; they require me to find and create meaning. The opening quote explains the virtue of metaphor: It distracts our logical, rational thinking. The purpose of using a metaphor is to take an identity or concept that we understand clearly, and use it to better understand the lesser known element. For example: Life is like drawing without an eraser, John Gardner. Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on, Samuel Butler. (I know these are similes, not metaphors.)
The Blind Men and the Elephant, written by John Godfrey Saxe in 1872, may be the most popular metaphor of all time. The original purpose of the parable was to show the importance of communications (sharing the different ways we see things). To me, the metaphor is related to the concept that “what you see is not all there is”. Today this concept is well accepted but usually ignored. The blind men “see” the elephant by what they touch and feel — and they interpret that to be the whole elephant. I have called this “wholeness blindness.” The way you see things is the way yousee things — it is not all there is. The Blind Men Metaphor brings all of this into one focus.
In his 2006 book The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt came up with this metaphoric image as he marveled at his weakness of will. I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him.
That metaphor has caused much discussion about the role of the human rational and emotional mind; what I have been writing about for years. And, of course, the role of beliefs in decision making. Believing is seeing and seeing is doing has been my formula. Haidt’s metaphor brought out the modern view of our two part mind: rational/intuitive, fast/slow thinking, System I/System II; left brain/right brain. My blog about his metaphor is one of the most popular (Sept. 9 – 28 – 2015).
My writing about positive uncertainty and a collective worldview that is open and inclusive has been influenced by these and other metaphors. Thank you metaphors.
A Closing Favorite Elephant Metaphor:
Humankind traveling through life is like the fly on the back of an elephant who thinksit is steering. The elephant doesn’t mind, and it makes the ride more enjoyable. Unknown