Metaphor and Identity: The unintended consequences of our most powerful tool

John Cousins
March 4, 2023
2 min read
There are no rules of architecture for castles in the clouds

Metaphors are powerful language tools for helping us communicate and understand the world around us.

But their use comes at a price. Metaphorical thinking creates a barrier, a separation between direct experience and us.

Everything becomes “like” something else instead of directly identifying with the thing we should be experiencing. We end up watching our life instead of living it.

Metaphor and comparison act as separators and create an existential gap between the world and us.

Through our addiction to TV we have become habituated and inured to watching and we end up taking that stance of watching as our own life and experiences unfold before us.

Magical realism in literature, and art in general, is a way of bridging this gap and identifying with experience directly. It is a workaround antidote to too much reliance on metaphor.

The Red Pill

This is something I have been thinking about and trying to be aware of. The reliance on Metaphor is like a technology run amok. It is so powerful an interpretive tool that we don’t take time to see how its ubiquitous use separates us from everything else in the world. And then we feel deep worry about our existence because we don’t feel connected to anything.

You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland

Take the red pill. Experience and respect everything as alive.

Cultivate Identity

Instead of saying this thing is “like” this other thing, say this thing “is” the other thing. The trees are alive in the wind. Your loved ones are visiting you in memories.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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