Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Power Of Metaphor

It is my opinion that those who take an overly literal interpretation of any given belief often and easily become distracted from any real meaning said belief might contain. Real meaning in the sense that it can provide practical insights with which to approach life and its associated problems which will arise sooner or later if they have not already.

For instance, taking the story of Adam and Eve literally, I get distracted by the talking snake. No amount of pleading has or ever will compel me to believe this literally. There is just no rational reason for me to believe there has ever been a snake that talked (except, of course, in the world of Harry Potter).

Literalists might figuratively (pardon the irony) feel compelled to argue such details as the type, size and venomousness of snake God or Satan might have appointed to the task of leading humanity astray. But this kind of information serves no practical purpose in dealing with life's matters. However, if this story is taken but metaphorically, it easily becomes meaningful.

I have dealt with this story specifically elsewhere, so I will summarize. Adam and Eve were “told” not to eat from the forbidden tree. It matters not whether God or an authority figure or perhaps even their individual consciences “told” them not to eat of the tree. What matters is that they rebelled against this “command” and it cost them dearly. As a result of this transgression, they became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed, whereas before they knew not even the concept of shame. They squandered away their “innocence”! Once this decision was made, it set into motion a host of negative repercussions precluding a return to “the good 'ole days”. Dealing with the painful consequences of this misdeed then became a prerequisite for any further progress. This is meaningful.

Imagine if people used this metaphor as a tool to avoid making rash or unwise decisions regarding any number of issues in life. One who is tempted to try cocaine, for instance, may want to ponder the meaning of this metaphor before he tries it. Cocaine is very addictive and as a result its use commonly leads to ruined or at least greatly hampered lives only because it was tried just once. The same can be said of young teen-age couples “creating” babies thus greatly limiting their potential options in life. Any number of different scenarios can be supposed making it personal to all of us.

Remember, when people lust for short-term gratification, there is likely despair and anguish in the long-term. Add to this the fact that everything is a trade-off and this metaphor becomes an encouragement to think twice before giving into temptation especially when it involves trading long-term benefit for short-term gain. This is but one of myriad ways a metaphor like this can be applied practically. I love metaphors because they beg us to ponder their meaning(s)!

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