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Life Is Metaphor
Life Is Metaphor
How many times have you heard someone say, "Please, just give me a sign!"? Often, what follows is a subtle sign that the person misses while they're waiting for a shooting star or to be struck by lighting. Most of the time, our lives seem mundane and full of the "ordinary." What we don't realize is that some of the most seemingly ordinary occurrences in our lives are vehicles to the sacred. If we're paying attention, they can connect us deeply and profoundly to our center, to our soul. How many of us miss those little "signs" in our lives, those little psychic pushes in one direction or another, while we're waiting for something dramatic or wonderful to happen to steer us down the path of life? We're looking outward or upward, instead of inward. In college, a professor said the words: "Life is metaphor". My entire body became a tuning fork resonating with that phrase. I understood it and believed it, but it wasn't until recently that I started truly seeing and applying this idea, watching it at work not only in my life, but in the lives of others around me.
To see the world metaphorically, you have to be paying attention to both the physical world and to what's going on internally. You have to recognize that metaphor is about meaning. While you shouldn't concretize it, metaphor can make your life richer and fuller. I've often seen metaphor working in the lives of others. A co-worker of mine, Cathy, had been talking for weeks about whether or not she should move in with her boyfriend. He was very eager and insistent, but she had been debating, unsure of whether she wanted to make that kind of commitment. One day I was in an area of our workplace that was without a clock, and just casually, I asked her if she had a watch. She told me no, but then proceeded to relate an entire story about all of her watches. Apparently, every single watch she owned had stopped on the same day! Knowing her life circumstances, I was struck instantly by a metaphoric meaning in this. Curious to see if she saw it as well, I asked her, "I wonder what that's all about?" She just shrugged.
Metaphors in life are usually subtle and simple, and that's the beauty of them. It's not at all like being struck by lightning... but yet, like my entire being vibrating with the idea of life as metaphor, it can be a moving experience, a revelation, something to make your eyes widen, to make you gasp or say, "oh my gosh!" if you learn to recognize them in your life. Melissa, a friend of mine, was struggling with writing a paper for a class we had together. The more time she spent on the endeavor, the more laborious the task became. In the midst of this undertaking, a bird emerged from the chimney flue and into the house. She spent a good hour attempting to capture it without hurting it and then setting it free. Melissa, however, unlike Cathy, was able to recognize this metaphor in her life, so much so that she sat down at the computer and began her paper with her struggle, relating the story of the bird's capture to her own "capturing" of her ideas for her paper, and the ultimate freeing of her imagination.
Seeing or recognizing metaphor in your life can open your eyes to the path your life is taking. We often believe that we are traveling down the path of life toward a goal, and we are attempting to "attain" that goal. Once you recognize that being on the path itself is the goal, seeing the world through metaphor allows a deep part of the self to be reflected in the physical world. There comes a sense of truth and wholeness, and suddenly there is less separation between you and the outer world. The growth of the soul transcends the limits or concerns of the ego. You are part of a huge pattern, and seeing the world through metaphor allows you to glimpse that larger pattern and also helps show you the individual path you're standing on. There are no ego-boundaries any longer, there is a shattering of everyday assumptions, and often an awakening into some bigger and brighter universe.
This kind of seeing can cause huge transformations in your life, or in the direction you think your life is heading. My marriage was slowly falling apart for years while I wasn't paying attention, and there came a point when I came to feel very discontent and didn't understand why. It took a lot of time for me to realize what it was and work through it. Very often I would say, "I feel transitional right now," as if something were waiting to happen. One day in the middle of summer, a butterfly flew into the house and landed on the skylight a good fifteen feet up. I spent all day, off and on, attempting to get it to fly out of the house. I tried a ladder, but it wasn't tall enough. I tried nudging it with a broom, but it wouldn't budge. My husband arrived home from work, and the kids, who had watched me struggle all day to set this butterfly free, immediately told him about it. He took the broom from me and on the first try, got the butterfly to hop right onto it! Then he took it outside and set it free. Here I was, feeling transitional, struggling, just a caterpillar myself going through the long, painful, messy process of change, simply unable to free the butterfly. Eventually, she was freed, and he let her go... literally, and metaphorically.
Seeing the world this way is simply a tool, a way to get you to recognize the ordinary as sacred, a vehicle that allows you to travel down that road. It can connect you to your deeper self, your soul, in ways you never imagined possible. It often initiates change, transformation, and great personal growth. It opens the world up, and instead of walking down that path blindly, or looking upward to the sky for guidance, seeing the metaphors that occur in our lives, within ourselves, and making those connections, gives us a richer meaning to our existence on this planet. It's necessary that we pay attention, individually and collectively, to the metaphors that appear in our lives, from metaphors as strong as every single one of your watches stopping on the same day, to metaphors as seemingly benign as, "I'm hungry." They're trying to tell us something, if we don't dismiss them as mere coincidences, and if we simply allow them to exist as meaningful incidents that help us navigate our way down that path of life.