People love to share things that make them happy. Everyone who’s succeeded in losing weight seems to feel compelled to share it with their friends, everyone with a successful medical treatment, or religion or way to organize your house, or your life. We want to share these techniques with our friends because we want to make our friends lives better.
What we forget, whether it’s diet or life, is that each person is different. We need different things. “Life isn’t fair”, but we try to make it fair. Giving everyone an aspirin might be fair, but it’s still not a good idea, even though it will help some of us. Remembering that everyone has different needs is hard. Frankly, it’s hard for me to write this because when I want to illustrate a point, I come up with analogies from my own life. I think in terms of raising children, of art, of magick, of healing, in short, of the things I know. When I say something is like cleaning house, or like giving someone a medicine, it seems clear to me. In my circles, we can convey a huge mass of information by referring to a rune or an astrological planet, or a tarot card, because we know what they mean. Our references would be confusing and pointless to those without the information. Sports analogies often escape me, although the folk who use them assume that everyone loves sports.
We all tend to surround ourselves with people who understand us. Most people wouldn’t want to move to a place where no one spoke their language, although one can learn other languages.There is comfort in being understood, and not having to work hard at understanding the people around you. We all have filters created by the lives we’ve led. If you see life as a battle, you will often treat other people as enemies to be defeated or destroyed. If you see life as a garden, you will tend to interpret influences as things that nurture or inhibit growth. Your analogies shape the way you interact with the world. Educators have been exploring whether competition or cooperation is a better way to teach. What each seem to find is that some kids will prefer one way, some another. These filters also can lead us to seeing things as “either-or” or as “multiple choice” depending on how we frame them. (How often have you taken a poll and not found your answer among the available options? Frustrating isn’t it?)
I also find it frustrating when I bump into an assumption “How important is Religion in how you live your life?” in a political poll will be taken as how important are Christian values to you? My religion is very important to me, but it isn’t Christian. The people who created that poll just never thought that non-Christian was an option.
The best analogies are those that are most universal. Anyone reading this would probably be familiar with computer analogies like something being “hardwired” or “downloadiing”, but most of us wouldn’t have 50 years ago, and many people in the world who don’t use computers much wouldn’t now. We make assumptions about toilets, and television, paved roads because that’s what we have in our lives. But “Life is like nursing a baby”, something I think would be pretty universal, would have been difficult for even mothers to understand in some cultures.
We use analogy to enhance understanding, but we need to be aware of how the can open or close our minds to other possibilities. There’s an old saying “The man who has only a hammer sees all problems as nails.” If you embrace an analogy that doesn’t offer the option you need, you can be left floundering. I see this a lot in forms of divination. There are a lot of symbols for masculine, feminine, movement, stillness, sun, moon, multiple, single, etc. (I notice that I chose a lot of pairs, while they show range, tend to enforce a dualistic mind set!). The most common powerful ideas occur in most of our symbol sets: runes, tarot, and astrology, because they contain many of the same ideas, when they notice the ones that match, people too often start trying to take the ones that don’t match up, and force them to do so. Sometimes comparing these things brings new insight, and sometimes it’s so forced that nothing but confusion results.
The broadway show Zorba starts with a song “Life Is” where the cast argues about what life is. I’ve heard that Buddists teach that life is suffering, but that is so alien to my experience that I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. Since I believe that reality is created by our thoughts, it is important that we don’t restrict our thoughts by the analogies we choose.
In The King and I, The King tells Anna that “a girl must be like a blossom, .. and man must be like honeybee“. Were his conclusions drawn from the symbols he chose, or vice versa? What will the listeners understand? What analogies will help us expand our understanding. When we think about what life is like, we need to choose our symbols carefully because Life has infinite possibilities, and whether our thoughts create reality or only filter it, we should be careful when we talk about what “Life is like”.