My grandfather used to say that. Or at least the family lore is that my grandfather used to say it.
For some reason, it stuck. Sad...you can imagine all the brilliant learning I did in high school physics that I've not retained, but those cows.. still have 'em.
Well, it turns out that metaphors have become a part of my profession, so perhaps my remembering the joke was prophetic (though I wouldn't mind teaching some high school physics).
Two weeks ago in Toronto a friend handed me a book called "The Journey from the Center of the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing" by Jeff Davis. My friend writes for Yoga Journal so a very apt book. Especially timely because I have been under the impression that my academic writing was still as good at is was in 1998, but it seems it has not. 10 years in business and 4 years in Integrative medicine seem to have muddied up a bit of my rational argumentation abilities --(in terms of what scholarly journals require). So, I'm on a quest to reclaim my writing but with even more authenticity than I was able at age 20.
The book is deep as well as handy. I'm not going to write a book report here, but suffice it to say he has some good writing rituals -- like asking "what am I writing for?" at the beginning of each writing session.
Today, I'm writing because I'm inspired to talk about metaphors. You use them in coaching all the time....you listen for people's metaphors and then use them as a basis for discussion, elaboration and reframing. An example would be if someone said, "I feel backed up against a wall" you can talk about this feeling and maybe build an escape hatch, secret door or a ladder to set the person free. This may sound silly, but firstly it works and secondly that they are symbolic representations of what's happening in someone's life or their experience of what's happening.
Metaphors are no more symbolic than words. All language is symbolic and metaphorical. Davis (2005) reminds us,
"All language is metaphorical. A story among some Northeastern American Indian tribes tells of a young man asking a wise-woman
"What does the earth rest on?"
"A turtle's shell," she said.
"And what does the turtle stand on?"
"Another turtle," she said. "It's turtles all the way down."
He says language is the same way. Turtles/symbols all the way down.
When conducting narrative intervention or when coaching, metaphors are far easier to work with than words as symbolic expressions. It can be kind of hard to convince someone that their "mother" is really an abstraction. It's much easier to talk about how "she talks your ear off" and go from there.
What I really loved about Davis' segment on this is that he talks about the body as "one complex, shapeshifting metaphor."
We're so often in our heads, I'm infused with delight to consider this body this way. Of course, a man committed to yoga would make such a connection. This is a very important connection especially when moving into a discussion of abuse, violence, and trauma that marks the body and tells a story when words disappear.
Davis, Jeff. The Journey from the Center to the Page. Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing. New York: Gotham Books, 2005.