I Need A New Metaphor

More processing

Those of you following my blog know that I just returned from a visit to my brother Michael, who is autistic, profoundly retarded and nonverbal. In my past few posts I have detailed the visit and its disappointing outcome. I am trying to regroup, using my blog as a forum to articulate ideas and perhaps come to a bit more clarity and insight.

I started reading Metaphors We Live By. The authors state that “metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.” [1] They use the metaphor, the mind is a brittle object to show how ingrained metaphor is in our language. One would not think that one is using this metaphor when one uses the phrases: “Her ego is very fragile; He broke under cross examination; She is easily crushed.” [2]

Life is a bowl of cherries

Just joking. This is not the metaphor that governs my daily life.


Cain just killed his brother Abel. God asked Cain where Abel was, and he answered, “How should I know.” (paraphrasing of course). According to the Torah (Genesis 4:9) Cain actually said “Am I my brother’s keeper?” According to commentary, the answer is, yes I am my brother’s keeper. [3]

Is my metaphor really a metaphor?

My father told me that I am my brother’s keeper years ago. Could it be that this metaphor shaped my life without my being aware of it, as in the examples above? Is the phrase “I am my brother’s keeper” an actual metaphor? I desperately need the help of a metaphoratician for an answer.

Assuming it is a metaphor, I know that my life has been shaped for the better through its unconscious influence.

However it might be time for a new one to get me unstuck (‘unstuck’ used in the context of the metaphor, life is a bowl of honey).

[1] Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. Metaphors We Live By Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1980, 2003

[2] Ibid pg 28

6 thoughts on “I Need A New Metaphor

  1. I’ve gotten far too far behind in reading your blogs. I love to save 5 or 6 and then have a reading fest with my iPad. But crazy me did something to my iPad and now I have to reload everything. My iPad simply tells me it’s not set up. I’m not tech savy and drives me more than a deviation off the normal behavior scale when I’m forced to figure something out on my own.
    Anyway, I wanted to pop in and say I always find your blogs so interesting. Although my husband is bipolar and not autistic and his IQ places him out of reach many times over in the genuis category, it’s amazing how many of the traits of Michael, I also see in my husband. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum for mental illness and so close together at the same time. Sheri


    • Thank you, Sheri. I’m so glad you like my posts. I don’t always feel like they hit the mark, though.
      Your comment is interesting. Mental illness seems to be the great equalizer. I saw a blog somewhere characterized those of us who are not disabled are ‘temporarily abled’. A sobering thought.

      I welcome your comments. They are always insightful.

      Best regards,



  2. Great post and interesting blog. Someone very close to me once told me that they didn’t understand why, if there is a God, that God would allow children who are gravely ill or seriously impaired to be born. I thought for a moment – my daughter had been born gravely ill, so I’d thought about this question before – and I told him what I believe to be true. That people close to us who are impaired, ill, etc., force us to examine ourselves and in turn make us better human beings. How could an intelligent God, from that perspective, not allow those births? Thanks. And thanks for following me on Cold as well.


    • Thank you also, Victoria. I’m glad you find my blog interesting. That I’m still thinking about the metaphor thing. I hope my future posts don’t lose anything while I’m looking.

      I enjoy your writing very much.



  3. I did leave you a lengthy comment just now, but it got erased by the looks of it. Oh well. Suffice to say that through metaphor we are able to communicate what is a unique and subjective view en masse through verbal and non-verbal communication. Everything is a metaphor, because every concept is a multilayered experience. It is difficult to truly be specific when each individual perspective adds a slight variation in interpretation, so we have to use a generic tool like metaphor in order to express common ideals that can then be tailored into something intelligible and tangible.
    I’ve missed our chats 🙂


    • Thanks, M. Metaphors are indeed key to learning. I think that is how children learn. I’m no learning theorist but it seems to me if a child has an experience and something new can be likened to that experience, with modifications, that is how knowledge is obtained. I know that is how I approached learning tech and science.
      Metaphors in terms if one’s place in the universe or even in a social unit are slightly different. If you get a chance, watch ‘My Dinner with André’. I think it has some relevance here in terms of what I was talking about in this post. But more to the point of the post, the way one thinks of one’s self and one’s place in the universe and in social circles, is either a good, comfortable fit or doesn’t fit well enough for one to be happy with him or herself. Does that make sense? In a way, the closer one’s metaphor is to one’s true nature, the happier and more satisfied one can be.
      Thanks for the comment, M. I miss our conversations as well. It seems as if you’ve been undergoing LOTS of changes. I wish you the very best.


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