Blog Post

Life is like a rice pudding …

… crunchy on the top and slowly moving liquid underneath.

I’ve just finished reading a wonderful book about metaphor: ‘I is an other: The secret life of metaphor and how it shapes the way we see the world’ by James Geary.

Every chapter delighted me. And every chapter (and the book itself) included the wonderful challenge of understanding its title. Each title fell into place as I read – giving me a series of little ‘aha’ moments.

There are chapters about the role of metaphor in language, money, thought, advertising, brain functioning, the body, politics, pleasure, childhood, science, parables and proverbs, innovation, and psychology.

I enjoyed the way that Geary describes metaphor as a ‘co-operative act of comprehension’ (a concept he draws from Ted Cohen). Part of the fun of metaphor is that the speaker makes it, but the hearer makes its meaning – speaker and hearer become accomplices in meaning-making, and can make connections between utterly unlike things.

Geary points out that metaphor is cognitive gymnastics – good for us because it boosts mood and sharpens mental skills.

I have a quote about metaphor sitting next to my computer:

‘Thinking metaphorically shakes things up in your head and heart, rearranges thoughts, makes new connections, pulls you out of deeply entrenched ruts of thought and provides new ways of seeing, ultimately helping you move through whatever it is you’re experiencing.’

Unfortunately I was so taken by the idea, that I forgot to write down where the quote came from. My apologies to the person I’ve failed to acknowledge. But I certainly find the idea useful when I’m working on complicated content.

Yes, I recognise that I’ve broken the ‘rules’ of good headings in this piece. I’m constantly advocating that headings should provide content and that the text following each heading should stand alone (independent of the heading, so that it will make sense for readers who skip headings). But sometimes, these ‘rules’ just have to be broken!

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