I keep expecting pop-culture to kill the metaphor. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but at the very least, I think this great instrument that has helped teachers and writers explain difficult concepts might be in danger. As I write this, I’m listening to Katy Perry. She’s telling me that I’m a firework and that I had better show them what I am worth. I need to light my fuse? Then there’s something about going boom, boom, boom. The melody is catchy, and she’s a great singer. Too bad this is the only song I know of by this talented lady that isn’t completely scandalous.
Interestingly enough, the best image in the whole song about fireworks, fuses, the moon and all that is right at the beginning when this AWOL pastor’s kid asks,
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Please, Miss Perry, sing about that. I’ve heard enough songs about the shiny things in life and how we all admire them. It makes us want to be actors, actresses, singers, cops, teachers and doctors. Write a song about a mortician. I’m kind of kidding. Think about what they do and how meaningful it is for some people and yet, we’re all creeped out when we learn that the personality we just met and the hand we recently shook both belong to a person who puts makeup on corpses for a living.
The metaphor is in danger because the same symbols are used over and over. They’re tired and thread-bare. Nobody experiences any awe, shock or jealousy over cliche images representing thoughts so simple that anyone and everyone has used them. Not only that, but people seem to employ them when they’re making an attempt at being profound and inspirational. In other words, they’re abusing them to show that the writer, singer, speaker or whomever is profound. Who doesn’t want to personify this characteristic?
What we should be doing instead of making something exciting and insightful is showing you the profound concept we recently stepped in,
because it’s just like that.
Profundity might be more of an accidental discovery than an intentional construct. For me, it’s a lot like stepping in crap, only tons better. I’ll find myself running through a field of thoughts and ideas when all of a sudden, I’m presented with the perfect metaphor-it’s stuck to my shoe. It’s unattractive and the smell makes me gag, just a little. All that goes to show that I didn’t have to put it together. I credit a lot of this to God who probably feeds me thoughts and leads me places He wants me to go because He’s amazing like that.
Forced perspicacity always leads to the same metaphors. Discovered wisdom and insight through genuine thought and exploration leads to accidentally profound thoughts. These detections allow us to find insight in the everyday images of plastic bags and help us avoid looking to the sky for fireworks like everyone else.
This will help to preserve the dignity that metaphors deserve and will contribute to their long, happy lives.