Swimming with the metaphors

I’ve recently found myself magnetically drawn towards metaphors. Previously, they occasionally floated past my consciousness, barely registering in my busy tumble-dryer of a mind. Now, they seem to be everywhere. They loom in everyday speech, in books, in poetry, on TV, in my mind and in my dreams. They aren’t literally in all of these places of course. Point well made, I hope. Do you want to hear the story of the metaphoric transition from hardly-there to everywhere? If so, read on.

It all started one evening last week when I was fed up of being annoyed by all the references to Love Island on social media. I wanted to understand the appeal rather than just continue to live with my inner grumbling. So I decided to watch said programme to see what it seemed to be offering my Dunbar’s Number in the way of intellectual stimulation and / or entertainment. To make the experience more pleasurable, anticipating a certain amount of confusion and / or pain given the low-brow reputation of the programme, I decided to make a list of all the metaphors used by the participants. As a device to increase the joy felt in my pleasure centres, it worked. Instead of boredom, I experienced an hour of rosy, pink, unicorn-tinted happiness, which is rare for me when it comes to viewing television (I am a restless soul). As for the quality of the programme, I wasn’t bowled over. However, as for metaphor gathering potential, Love Island is in the top ten at least.

In the interests of art research, I now present my Love Island metaphors in all their cliched glory.

Love Island Metaphors

Since that evening, I’ve been consuming metaphors during all my waking hours and I have grown to love them deeply. They touch my soul in new ways.

I’ve even started inventing a few of my own. My own crazy creations are a little ridiculous, hopefully humorous, I admit. In fact, they aren’t so much as metaphors, but mixed metaphors. For me, language is a minefield of intellectual playthings. I could toy with words all day long, that is, if I didn’t have to clock in on the treadmill of work.

This is my second favourite.

I think that one reason I love metaphors so much is that they start with ‘meta’, which is one of my favourite prefixes (and, yes, I do have a list of favourite prefixes at home – who doesn’t?). Meta is an abstract concept and I am partial to a bit of abstract. I am especially partial to things that are half real and half abstract – meta-abstract?

The prefix ‘meta’ makes me think clouds, air, depth, floating and other worldly.  My current favourite parallel universe is cyberspace. Cyberspace exists in the metaverse. My thoughts exist in the metaverse. These are not the same metaverses, but they overlap. This cat exists in the metaverse of someone’s thoughts and in the metaverse of cyberspace.

Cute kitty or sad penguin?

I digress. We should travel back to the land of metaphors, metaphors in this universe at least.

I’ve just realised I am assuming that everyone reading this knows what a metaphor is. Perhaps I should offer a definition to soothe their troubled brows. A metaphor compares two concepts that might at first seem unrelated, such as ‘cat’ and ‘penguin’ to borrow from the image above. One of the concepts might be an abstract idea (so actually neither cat nor penguin) and the other is likely to be a tangible object. For example: ‘love is a battlefield’. We may feel that we know what love is (especially if we feel it) yet we can’t see it and we would struggle to describe it to someone who has no experience of love. Put the concept of ‘love’ next to a ‘battlefield’, which we can see, touch and describe, and then we end up with a new entity, a new way to view love. Of course, whether love actually is a battlefield is a matter of debate. It can be, I guess – fighting, gore, lost limbs, noise, sweat? My point is that ordinary language cannot describe love. Yet the use of a meta-device (taking a word out of context and putting it with a new context) gives language the tool needed to create a better image of love (the abstract concept). 

Can we conclude from this that art can aid in the description of intangible things such as love, hate, happiness, better than language alone can? Yes! Of course I believe that. I’m an artist.

I also like the idea that metaphors exist in the metaverse of our minds (we create them, they didn’t exist before we came along with our words and ways to juxtapose words in an artistic way) and the metaverse of cyberspace (someone put that cat penguin online for me to find today). There is no such thing as a battlefield of love, a thing that we can touch. Yet, can you imagine it in your head? Could I, as the artist, create this image and put it out into cyberspace? I’d like to think that were possible. I’m not sure I want to do it with ‘love is a battlefield’ but I might like to do it with other, more interesting, less cliched metaphors.

The world is a bizarre and lovely place, it has many levels which I don’t think we appreciate enough yet: the real level (the level I see now sat here in my studio looking out at Wolverhampton in all its urbanised glory), the level of our minds (the thoughts circling my head right now) and the level of the virtual (the cat penguins on the Internet). They blend and they exist, they overlap. There is so much more to discover, and next I would like to travel by my mind’s magic carpet to the land of cyber-metaphors.

As an appendix to this blog entry, I have a question: how many metaphors can I get away with using yet still retain credibility in one blog post? If anyone gets the correct number, they will win the ice-cream cone of intellectual superiority. Well done! As for credibility? I think I have lost it. It has been quite good fun writing badly on purpose. I hope you, dear reader, have enjoyed the ride as much as I have.

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