So is life, for you, a Road to Glory or a demolition course? Is it a slow, inevitable march into oblivion or a recurring series of cycles of growth that lift you by trials and gradual achievement toward increasingly lofty goals? Then also, in terms of what you are setting out to achieve with a Life Mapping adventure, will you be able to switch horses midstream, if you wish to, transmuting lead into gold? Yes! You can! (L. Watts, Life Paths, Chapter 2)
When you close your eyes and envision a human life, what is it is like; what image do you see? This is a Life Metaphor.
Life metaphors are schematic cognitive models, habitual ideas you have developed. You might ask yourself, where do they come from and why do you hold this image currently rather than another?
Some Life Metaphors are culturally shared and defined: Life is a Journey, for instance. This model reflects the epic, mythic hero cycle stories found universally in all cultures such as Joseph Campbell describes in The Hero with 1000 Faces. These stories represent the hero’s adventure as a going, reaching fulfillment, and then and a return to serve humanity, as in the mythic adventures of Prometheus or Theseus, or of Dorothy in The Wizard the Oz or even Harry Potter.
There is the metaphor of Life as a Mountain, with peaks and valleys: Sisyphus, for example, is compelled to roll a stone up the mountain and then it falls back down and he starts over again, endlessly.
Or perhaps a Life is like a Hot Air Balloon ride? I saw one land once in a peach orchard while I was working on a farm. It was from Canada. The pilot got out and he seemed to me to have come from another world altogether.
There are many other life metaphors that reflect and can also influence our understanding of life. Life metaphors can even shape our interpretations of and responses to life events. Is life a Roller Coaster ride, and if so, when or for whom?
I have always loved the Life Metaphor of Life as a Carousel, which is why I use the interesting “Carousel” header image with this blog, by the fantastic artist Ann Wipf, showing the horses leaping off from their platform. A carousel goes round and round and up and down, in time with the musical sound and flashing lights of the platform arcade. Traditional carousels may have a brass ring that the riders reach out for and try to catch as they go around. This reminds me of the golden snitch in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories; I have a poster on my den wall that shows Harry going for the snitch and it reads: “The game of Quidditch isn’t over until the Golden Snitch is caught.” Such metaphors as these can serve to propel us forward through the trials and tests of life as we aim to attain our life dreams.
SO THIS WEEK I INVITE YOU TO IMAGINE: what is Life like to you, now? Close your eyes to envision Life or a lifetime; what image do you see? Explore the implications, the metaphoric entailments, thoroughly. How is a lifetime like the image you perceive, and why?
On Tuesday we will look more closely at the variety and basis of Life Metaphors. I invite you to share your stories and insights this week!