[OPE] Well said, David Brooks!

From: Jurriaan Bendien <jurriaanbendien@online.nl>
Date: Tue Apr 12 2011 - 14:16:49 EDT

Poetry for Everyday Life


NYT April 11, 2011

(...) The psychologist Michael Morris points out that when the stock market
is going up, we tend to use agent metaphors, implying the market is a living
thing with clear intentions. We say the market climbs or soars or fights its
way upward. When the market goes down, on the other hand, we use object
metaphors, implying it is inanimate. The market falls, plummets or slides.
Most of us, when asked to stop and think about it, are by now aware of the
pervasiveness of metaphorical thinking. But in the normal rush of events. we
often see straight through metaphors, unaware of how they refract
perceptions. So it's probably important to pause once a month or so to
pierce the illusion that we see the world directly. It's good to pause to
appreciate how flexible and tenuous our grip on reality actually is.

Metaphors help compensate for our natural weaknesses. Most of us are not
very good at thinking about abstractions or spiritual states, so we rely on
concrete or spatial metaphors to (imperfectly) do the job. A lifetime is
pictured as a journey across a landscape. A person who is sad is down in the
dumps, while a happy fellow is riding high.

Most of us are not good at understanding new things, so we grasp them
imperfectly by relating them metaphorically to things that already exist.
That's a "desktop" on your computer screen.

Metaphors are things we pass down from generation to generation, which
transmit a culture's distinct way of seeing and being in the world. In his
superb book "Judaism: A Way of Being," David Gelernter notes that Jewish
thought uses the image of a veil to describe how Jews perceive God - as a
presence to be sensed but not seen, which is intimate and yet apart.

Judaism also emphasizes the metaphor of separateness as a path to
sanctification. The Israelites had to separate themselves from Egypt. The
Sabbath is separate from the week. Kosher food is separate from the
nonkosher. The metaphor describes a life in which one moves from nature and
conventional society to the sacred realm.

To be aware of the central role metaphors play is to be aware of how
imprecise our most important thinking is. It's to be aware of the constant
need to question metaphors with data - to separate the living from the dead
ones, and the authentic metaphors that seek to illuminate the world from the
tinny advertising and political metaphors that seek to manipulate it. (...)

Complete article:

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