MetaFor

wolfsheep
"Some prove more useful than others."

I blame metaphor misuse for most of the worst difficulties humans face. Metaphors provide a means for describing the specifically indescribable, but to mistake a metaphor for its tangible-seeming referent makes people crazy. There never was an Invisible Hand. Adam Smith employed metaphor, even including the tip off 'as if,' when describing how markets seem to work. Seem to work, not how they actually work. Some became true believers in what Smith never intended to serve as truth but as speculative observation. He intended people to think, not to blindly follow. His was never intended to become a faith-based initiative. At least ten thousand alternative 'as if' metaphors might exist to help envision how markets work, none necessarily valid, but each potentially interesting or helpful.

Firm belief in the physical actuality of any metaphorical entity breeds trouble.
Ideology seems to depend upon this sort of curious short circuiting as evidence of faith and belief. Jesus as an instructive metaphor cannot satisfy a true believer, he must be 'made flesh,' an insidiously subtle additional metaphor piled atop an apparently misbegotten one. Only by 'making flesh' could anyone ever kill another in the name of their lord. Science largely advances on the backs of useful metaphors and degrades under the grinding hoofs of them. Survival of the Fittest was a way of considering evolution before it became an excuse for butchery. The butchery, as always, utterly relied upon misbegotten metaphor. A decent metaphor couldn't care less if anyone believes in it, because it ain't in the belief business. It might be best to consider metaphors to be in the rental business, never intending customers to actually BUY the story, just to use it to help get over some cognitive hump; to consider.

Lacking solid evidence, the budding ideologue insists that a metaphor simply must be believed in to be useful, to be any good, when precisely the opposite seems truer. Metaphors might insist upon their user's skepticism to prove useful. They provide a way of thinking about rather than any prescription for what must be thought about. Any thinker might claim their personal skepticism and still usefully employ a metaphor. One need not believe in a vengeful God to consider how the universe might be influenced by the wide belief in such a presence. But we seem to need penultimate explanations, as if our own metaphor-prompted thinking could not possibly satisfy our curiosity. Satisfying curiosity might serve as a mother for misbegotten metaphors because what do we get when we satisfy a curiosity? We eliminate it. Belief-based satisfaction ultimately seems simply self-destructive. We want definitive answers, not etherial insights. We seem to want to believe, even when belief seems determined to do us all in.

Identity, home, family, country, each seem to thrive under the influence of some MetaFors. We want to know why and so we create explanations to satisfy that curiosity which perhaps never existed to be satisfied, but encouraged. Our world, our home, our family, and even our country seem mostly metaphorical beasts, materially different from how we perhaps too conveniently characterize them. We're perfectly free to think of our identity however we might choose to, devilish or angelic, for any metaphorical characterization might help the least of us gain some enlivening insight into our underlying condition. But these metaphors qualify as information, not definition. Every devil and also every angel serves as a metaphorical characterization of what might otherwise prove impossible to describe. Our metaphors can help and also hinder understanding, but the belief that any metaphor definitively describes can only undermine the quality of our already tenuous existence here.

When I go in search of my home, FindingHome seems primarily an extended exercise in slinging metaphors. Some prove more useful than others. Some initially confuse me, but need not necessarily stymie my search. The most frustrating thought exercises sometimes prove the most insightful. Mostly, I'm learning that I might usefully string together any lengthy stream of 'not thats' to produce ever deeper insight, understanding, and acceptance. I seem no smarter for my many dancing metaphors, but I might feel a tad wiser for the exercise. My whole existence might prove to be nothing more than extended metaphors. What would be the difficulty with that? How would I ever know? I do know, or think I know, that the more I learn the more this whole universe and everything in it, this place seems increasingly metaphorical. I would not be at all surprised to eventually come to understand that to my consciousness at least, every apparent thing I've ever experience turned out to be nothing more or less than a metaphorical shadow flickering on some cave wall. Thank God!

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









blog comments powered by Disqus