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It’s a metaphor! (2)

it is a metaphor!I was delighted by the interest and discussions (on this site, on twitter, on facebook, on other sites) around my suggesting that the deacon proclaim, from time to time, “It is a metaphor!

I appreciated a lot the point that deacons essentially already do this. They declaim, “Wisdom! Attend!” – not: “Knowledge! Attend!” or: “Fact! Attend!”

An other reaction to my post, more predictable I guess, was accusing me that somehow I was denying the truth. One commenter indicated that she held, not to metaphors, but literally to “some kind of Return” of Christ, as one example; not realising that the “some kind” was converting my metaphor into her simile!

Let me stress more deeply (noting, as I go, the metaphorical nature of “stress” and “deeply”) that the more profound (metaphor!) the truth, the more we use metaphor. And use metaphor to explicate metaphor. Be ye not surprised, therefore, that when dealing with our deepest truths metaphor reigns supreme (metaphor!).

Shallow truths (literal; not much need for metaphor):
The pen is six inches long.
The rock weighs 1.7 Kg
The film was 1 hour and 43 minutes long.

Deeper truths (metaphor):
You are my sweetheart.
He is depressed.
She is his rock.

We are the body of Christ.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Word of God.
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Bosco’s law of metaphor: the deeper the truth – the more we use metaphor.

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23 Responses to It’s a metaphor! (2)

  1. For your consideration.

    Salman Rushdie writes in his memoir “Joseph Anton” of the stories his father told to him growing up.

    “To grow up steeped in these tellings was to learn two unforgettable lessons: first, that stories were not true (there were no ‘real’ genies in bottles or flying carpets or wonderful lamps), but by being untrue they could make him feel and know truths that the truth could not tell him…”

    KW.

    • Thanks for that quote, Kelly. It expresses differently the same truth that I focus on when I challenge people who use the word “true” to mean “happened”. Stories, from my perspective, may be true but be about events etc. that never happened. Parents are not lying when the tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Blessings.

  2. There is the same problem with ‘belief’. So often it seems to mean what we hold to be factually true rather than what we trust to have meaning.

    • Yes, Mike. I recently wrote about this – it is our fault that we use “belief” at the same time for Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. People ask me if I “believe in evolution”. I believe in God. I accept evolution and the Big Bang etc as offering, currently, the best scientific model we have. Blessings.

  3. It’s one critique I have of the “New Atheists”; this preoccupation with literalism. Bill Maher, as well, in his documentary “Religulous”, talks about Jonah being one of his favorite “nonsense stories”. His idea is that it is stripped of its merit once exposed as non-literal. To me and others, literalism represents a “tin ear” to genre, and as Robert Price writes, as we mature we stop saying things like “just a story.”

    • You are quite right about genre, Kelly. Jonah is a wonderfully fishy story – to get stuck on whether or not it actually happened misses the whole point of that story! Blessings.

  4. Went to see Life of Pi yesterday, and that’s exactly what it says so beautifully. It generated stirring discussion with my (currently ) rationalist/atheist daughter about the importance of story.

  5. Between your first and second post, I have chanced to read “Out of the Silent Planet” by C. S. Lewis (a true master at metaphor and allegory). A sentence near the end of the novel makes an interesting point: “It even occurred to him that the distinction between history and mythology might be itself meaningless outside the Earth.” In his imagination Lewis visualised a universe where the stories of classical mythology were re-tellings of “real” events from eons past that happened in the “heavens”.
    I seem to recall reading a non-fiction essay by Lewis that discusses the importance of fantasy, but can’t remember which book it was in.

  6. I’m vaguely reminded of the discussion between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, in which Lewis described myths as “lies, though breathed through silver.” Tolkien was … a bit stirred … at this classification, and responded by writing the poem Mythopoiea.

    The Lord be with you, or with your spirit, or whatever we’re going to change to next 🙂

  7. Bosco, the poem was written in late 1931,the night aftet the discussion between Lewis, Tolkien, and Hugo Dyson. Thus it was just about the time Lewis returned to formal Christianity. I’m pretty sure this influenced Lewis a good deal.

  8. To quote from Lewis in “Surprised by Joy” – speaking about the Gospels:
    “If ever a myth had become fact, had been incarnated, it would be just like this. And nothing else in all literature was just like this. Myths were like it in one way. Histories were like it in another. But nothing was simply like it. And no person was like the person it depicted… Here and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man.”

  9. Tolkein ( and Dyson and others ) persuaded CS Lewis to reconsider Christianity through their friendship and informal Oxford discussion group ‘The Inklings’, he became a believer in God in 1929, and an Anglican in 1931. Tolkein was a staunch Catholic, Dyson an anti-Catholic Anglican as I recall- I’m sure their theological discussions were very lively!

    There’s a line in Tolkein’s poem resonates with me:

    ‘of Evil this alone is deadly certain: Evil is.’

    The brutality of WW1, mass poverty around the world and the rise of facism are the backdrop to this outpouring of poetry and allegorical writing, to me that is the role of mythology in an era where so much can be explained scientifically, and we begin to accept those things which are inexplicable may never be truly understood: mythology serves to reconnect with goodness, to uphold the collective definition of evil.

    • Thanks, Tracy. I’ve started reading Devin Brown on Tolkein in order to better use the popularity of The Hobbit currently. I need to go back and read Tolkein’s biography. I also hope that they will continue the Narnia film series – but I am not so sanguine about that. Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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