Sunset in the Desert
-mountains turn into gold-
I learn a great deal about what is going on in the world and how people think by my daily participation in the social media. Yesterday I had a fascinating online conversation with someone who scoffed at the use of metaphorical language as a means of explaining anything that is "real' in the world, "The findings of science and the language of science alone explain reality," he said. Then he went on to tell me that "metaphors are lies told to children."
My immediate response to the "metaphor as a lie" pronouncement was that I thought perhaps Shakespeare might disagree with that analysis.
Metaphorical language is simply a different language, neither better nor worse than the language of science. We use metaphors to tap into our imagination. Metaphors help us to apprehend "mystery" in life.
Out here in the desert where I live, the surrounding mountains brightly glow in the reflection of the rays of the setting sun. Of course, this can all be explained scientifically and factually. The angle of the sun in relationship to the earth, the refraction of the rays- these can all be scientifically measured, and it's all very explainable.
However, scientific facts cannot begin to "explain" how my spirit is set on fire as I stand in awe before the glowing mountains as the sun goes down. I need the language of metaphor and poetry to help me get in touch with it all; so I say "the mountains turn into gold when the sun sets in the desert skies. This is not a lie told to children. While not being "factual," this metaphor is perhaps a closer rendition of the truth.
As I see it, our entire culture has been so influenced by the thinking of the Age of Science and Reason (18th century) that we have a difficult time understanding what metaphorical language is all about. We have a hard time distinguishing between scientific language and metaphorical language, and so when "metaphorical" language is used, people today tend to evaluate this language through scientific lenses.
In essence, all "religious" language is metaphorical. "God" is a profound unknowable mystery, unable to be explained or described. Any language we use abut God is never scientific or factual, it is always metaphorical. Whenever we say that God is "Father," or God is "Creator," or God is "a small voice in the soul," or God is "blazing fire"- we are always using metaphor - the language of poetry.
Yesterday, someone else told me that there aren't any "facts" in the Bible- and I think basically that this is probably quite true. But, then again, I never look to the Bible for facts. The Bible (the many books of the Bible) is not a history book. The Bible is not a scientific journal. The Bible is a collection of poetry and songs-stories abounding in rich metaphorical language designed to "tap into" our imagination and to encounter "mystery."
I think, for example, of the astoundingly beautiful myth, creation poem found in the Hebrew Scriptures in the beginning of the Book of Genesis. If you treat this story as a scientific account of how the universe began, of course it is ludicrous. Six days and it's finished, God snapping "his" fingers and "poof" -there are birds and flowers.
The story is not meant to offer factual explanations. It is an ancient myth using the rich language of metaphor. It poetically celebrates the breathtaking beauty of all beings- everything and everyone flowing together in perfect harmony, all interdependent and interconnected in the energy of a Holy Abiding Presence. I do not read the story to find "facts." I read the story and I bask in its imagery.
No, I do not at all think that metaphors are lies told to children. Metaphors are thresholds into mystery, and since scientists themselves today admit that they are only able to "explain" about 5% of what is real in the universe (the rest is mystery), perhaps we all need to reclaim the language of metaphor once again.
my book on amazon:
my book on amazon: