Life is…

Life is like a garden, you must plant what you want and weed out what you don’t. Different plants have different needs, some need “hardening off” but will still be strong and healthy when you do it.

Life is like cooking, the proper mixture of elements becomes something different from all of them, yet wonderful. Sometimes we must be precise, sometimes intuitive with our measuring and choice of ingredients. Pie crust needs a gentle hand, bread benefits from much kneading. Without heat, the transformation doesn’t happen.

Life is like a family, each member contributes something different, whether it’s physical support, comfort, laughter, or a need to hold together, all make the family stronger.

Life is like sports, when you push through the pain you get stronger. Working as a team means winning for all.

Life is like wine, life is like love, life is like a banquet, life is a road, life is a game, … come up with your own analogy.

Humans use analogies, and we tend to use ones that are familiar to us. You can tell a lot about a person by the analogies they use. Early man  described life as a tree or a river, whereas a modern person can see life like the machines they use (Einstein said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”), a soldier sees life as a battle, a healer sees life as a balance between disease and health.

A ceremonial magician once told me that anything that can be divided into four can be characterized as Earth, Air, Fire, or Water; … and proceeded to demonstrate using Star Trek- Captain Kirk is Fire, Captain Picard is Air, Captain Sisko is Earth, and Captain Janeway is Water.  When there are five, we can use the oriental system of five elements (when there are pairs of things they can be seen as yin and yang). Once we have a system, we can use it to understand the world.

This can be useful, but it can also be restricting. “If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see all problems as nails.” Sports analogies don’t work for me because I don’t have a really good relationship with sports. People who came from disfunctional families would probably see the world translated through the lens of how their family worked.

In alchemy, it is understood that systems are like each other. Symbols are useful because they can be extended to make predictions about things that cannot be simply observed. Metals have certain characteristics: gold is yellow, soft, malleable, a good conductor, iron is black, hard, and strong. Copper is orange, ductile, and conductive, tin is white, malleable and not easily oxidized. We can describe people as being like one of those elements, then make the projection that if we put a “copper” person with a “tin” person, they will probably have a relationship that shows the positive characteristics of bronze, or theorize that gold and iron won’t mix well. Alchemy was used to understand things (like people) who couldn’t be tested empirically, much as we use animal testing to predict what effects drugs will have on humans.

Of course, people are not metals, so while they may be able to be described as a metal, or elements, or by zodiacal signs, or any of many systems of dividing people, there will be enough variation that none of the systems can describe any individual perfectly, any more than one picture can show everything about the subject. Still, analogies are useful, and the more systems we learn, the more ways we have to look at any person or situation.

If we look at the analogies we use to describe life, we can become aware of our own perspective. If we apply other analogies, we can discover things that might not come up in the systems we tend to use. So today I will be looking at the world in as many ways as I can.

Life is an egg beater, life is a telephone, life is a lightbulb, life is a seraglio (the crazier the analogy, the more different the new perspective). I invite you to join me.

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