Einstein stated that “an expert is a person who has few new ideas; a beginner is a person with many.” This is a paradoxical problem. When you are new to a discipline, you see many new ways of looking at common problems in that field. When you become a supposed expert, you tend to look at the problems the same way that everyone else does and consequently new ideas are hard to come by. This is probably the reason why that it is always a person in an adjacent field that comes up with a miraculous discovery, seemingly by accident. We would be keen to listen to the ideas of others and then use our expertise to execute on them.
However, that is not the point of this blog. The problem is. As you gain experience in life, you tend to dry up on ideas or new ways of looking at things. I have been thinking of ways to combat that, and I have come to the conclusion that the art of building a metaphor is probably the best way to keep yourself open to new ideas and new ways of looking at the problems in front of you. Some metaphors will come to us in a stroke of brillance, but even then, the metaphor will take a long time for you to simplify the symbolism down to the absolute essentials. Aristotle and many others have recognized that the ability to conceive of metaphor is a sign of genius. Finding similarities between disassociated concepts is what many will recognize as a brilliant idea.
I often look at poetry, or the modern day hip hop bars as a demonstration of this very thing. We all recognize when someone hits on a comparison between dissimilar things, and we are in awe of how they came up with that concept. From T.S. Eliot’s ability to compare the dense fog of the evening to some prowling cat to Eminem’s ability to create a symbolic personality, Slim Shady, as an incantation of social frustration. Metaphor is powerful, Metaphor is genius. We recognize it when we see it. What I think we need to understand is that we can create our own metaphor, we can become powerful in our own right. We can effectively encapsulate meaning and effort into a metaphor and use that as a major tool in our lives.
If you think about it, all the great personalities of our past have used the art of metaphor to propel their ideas, their careers and to help market their ideas. The list is endless, but think of all the great advertisers in our society. What are they good at, creating metaphor that we then make part of our lives. Think of the most powerful ones that you probably take for granted now. Fred Hoyle, created the “Big Bang” metaphor. Shakespeare created the metaphor that “All the world’s a stage.” Jesus used the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep. The list goes on an on. We stare at a Pablo Picasso painting wondering how the hell is that worth 40M, then in another instant the metaphor behind what he was painting hits us like a ton of bricks and you spend the next year of your life contemplating what he was really saying. Bob Dylan’s scratchy irritating voice will haunt you to your soul when you realize that the metaphor he was spinning represents the entire generation that you grew up with. Metaphor is intense, it is powerful, it is simulacra.
Walt Whitman said that your very flesh will be a great poem, and that is certainly how I feel now. My life experience is carved out in intricate patterns on my soul and I have become what I created by my own effort and conscious application of everyday living. Now that I wrestle with the outcome of that, I am trying to figure out how that I can drive myself to even better heights, or as they say, get to the next level. So as I fill this paper (or electronic blog) with the breathing of my heart (William Wordsworth’s Metaphor) I contemplate metaphor for my own life, my own efforts. I have come up with a few, but they were not perfect. I need to focus on making them more perfect, more real, more of an impact. This is probably a lifelong effort.