Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Metaphors of the Everyday

David Brooks, in the New York Times, points out that metaphors are not merely a device for poetry, but a part of our everyday speech. And hence, our metaphors shape the very way we view the world. He points out, for example, that
"When talking about argument, we use war metaphors. When talking about time, we often use money metaphors. But when talking about money, we rely on liquid metaphors. We dip into savings, sponge off friends or skim funds off the top."

A metaphor is like a pot; the metaphor gives shape to the concepts it encloses, the way a pot gives shape to water. A metaphor is like a tool; it can be used wisely or foolishly. A metaphor is like a brick; it lasts long after the wall it had been a part of has been torn down.

A metaphor is like a...


Rob said...

In the article, I sometimes get the feeling that Brooks is talking about idiomatic use of language. When he speaks of metaphor in relation to Judaism, he reaches what I would consider the main point. Religious language is based on the realization that our thoughts and speech about that which is beyond time and space cannot be adequately expressed in language. This is due to the fact that words can only be drawn from concrete experience. Anything that is "beyond words" (i.e. beyond physics) requires metaphor. Plato's description of the death of Socrates is an illustration. Here is a man (Socrates) whose quest for meaning is bound by logic. When he is asked to speculate about the world of absolutes, he breaks into a story (In Phaedo, it's called "The Myth of the Afterlife".)

Myth and metaphor are the nexus of where the self experiences reality (as opposed to the words "about" reality.)

In the play "Our Town" Emily asks the Stage Manager if anyone understands how the value of life can only be discovered through the reality of loss (my interpretation) and he answers "Saints and poets, they do some."

My personal belief is that the rise of modern sciences have led to a shift in the human psyche. Science demands precise definitions to house empirical data. As a result, people now believe that language is precise. (A fact that seems to make people more literal.) In the realms of religion and imagination metaphor is the reminder that the way that I think and talk about the world is not necessarily the way the world is. My only option is language that points beyond the literal.

Anonymous said...

No myth, no metaphor, David Brooks is a a-hole.

Anonymous said...

Look, David Brooks is an a-hole, not a a-hole. Dude, get it right, an a-hole.

Johnny Cashless said...

Before I metaphor
I met a three.

"David Brooks = a-hole"
Sounds like metaphor to me.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau