Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clarity? Or further confusion?

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Does explaining the metaphor ruin it?

Sometimes, like cryptic crossword clues, working them out is far more rewarding than just looking up the answer.

On the other hand, I’m a communicator: I don’t write to be obscure, I write to be understood or provoke deeper thought. Perhaps the last post, Metaphorical, was just a bit too opaque.

I’m a firm believer in the idea of Narrative (viewing the world through stories) – we cannot make sense of the world directly, but only through Narrative Structures that give us a framework in which to interpret events and experiences (for those who want more background on this idea, I suggest you click on the label “epiphany”, find the oldest posts and work forward – read the comments too where some aspects of the concept are further expanded).

As such, if we change the Narrative, we change the experience.

Just about every Narrative we view the world through, is either created by someone else or moulded by a series of life events and interpretations. Very few, if any, are consciously created by ourselves. The world we think is real, is nothing of the sort. We are not seeing anything as it really is, only through man-made filters.

Once/if we realise this, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of creating our own Narrative. We can re-write the story of how we see the world, and thus how we experience it. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is possible.

And this is kind of what Maggie and I have been working on.

I’m a photographer because I take photographs and tell people I am a photographer. And if I say it with enough conviction, everyone goes along with it – including me. Because I say I am, I practice, I learn, I develop, I improve, I become. I create a new story, a new way of experiencing the world.

Is it real? In terms of personal experience, yes it is. In terms of ultimate reality, it’s just a stage set with costumes, backdrops and a loose script.

But in terms of ultimate reality everyone’s lives are just a stage set with costumes, backdrops and a loose script. The difference is I’m aware of it and am no longer confusing the story as some kind of “really real”.

Those who say, “It’s all very well for you, but I live in the ‘real’ world, pal” have mistaken the illusion for something more. Their world is no more ‘real’ than mine. Theirs is a story too. I’m just choosing a different story.

However, other people’s Narratives intrude and overlap all the time. And recently certain events managed to trample all over the Narrative we are trying to construct. It did the equivalent of setting fire to the stage, backdrops and costumes, leaving us with a charred mess that will take time to rebuild.

The Narrative itself wasn’t destroyed, but many of the props that supported it were.

These can be rebuilt, and will be. The process is already underway. But it takes time.

Perhaps that makes more sense.

Perhaps I have just confused you even more, in which case I apologise and suggest we sit down for a cup of tea together sometime and I can explain it more clearly using scraps of paper, diagrams and bits of cutlery and condiment pots on the table (right, imagine this spoon represents the voice of authority... sorry, I didn't realise you were still using that..., ok... imagine this pepper pot...).
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31 comments:

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I use the pepper pot to give visuals to what I mean all the time...

Loved this post.

emma said...

The explanation is perhaps more intriguing (who/what committed this arsonist attack?).

I like your Narrative explanation.Everything is in the interpretation, (of course I'm very influenced here by interpretations of "life with a disability", one persons "nightmare" is another persons "opportunity", all very subjective).

Quick question, can I put a couple of your Wickerman photos on my blog with an active link back here? I think they are more than excellent, would like to have them handy to look at again and again!

Sandy's witterings said...

Surely the narrative, once narrated, cannot be destroyed, only the script for what you expect future narratives to be. If this were the case, I'd be completely narrativeless.
All our narratives are impacted by other to some degree or another but it's only when the the impact is great that we realise this sometimes. In reality we are all living the same narrative.
Hope the next chapter reads a little more like you planned

Pat said...

I think I'm getting the hang of it. i wish I could utilise it to write about what I didn't orter.
I know jolly well that if I were sitting opposite you in the caff - salt cellar or pepper pot it would all become clear.

Kim Ayres said...

Gillian - a bowl of muesli is constantly getting used to illustrate something or other at breakfast time discussions...

Emma - the specific details of who, how, what, where and when are not up for public discussion, but I thought the philosophical principles were more interesting anyway :)

And yes, I'm more than happy for you to re-use my pics so long as I'm credited and there's a link back here :)

Sandy - ah, but you see we don't all live in the same Narrative - that's the point. Some are living in Wind in the Willows whole others are living in the world of James Bond. It's only when Toad crashes into JB's Aston Martin do we begin to realise everything is down to interpretation :)

Pat - I've always found it much easier to explain things face to face than via the written word. The page doesn't raise its eyebrows or ask questions or give any kind of feedback, so I'm left guessing whether what I've said has made any sense. Face to face I can see instantly whether I need to explain something a bit better or in a different way.

And with a pen and a scrap of paper to hand I can explain anything I know to anyone :)

Eryl Shields said...

I nearly didn't read this post fearing you were going to give us 'the facts', eg: 'the theatre was the shed in which the bicycles were kept...' I should have known better!

TalesNTypos said...

Kim, beautifully beautifully worded. I'm picking up on a scintilla of sadness, but also resonance of mettle (the mettle is reassuring). I am sorry that your 'stage' was set fire to. I am. My heartfelt condolence to you and Maggie. Although I know little of you, you do strike me as salt-of-the-earth kinda people. Really you do.
I wish you the best.
My thoughts are with you. *hugs*

emma said...

Sorry Kim - obviously I need to be clearer myself! I wasn't requesting details, merely suggesting that with more explanation you have added a new aspect of intrigue too, the question was intended as an example...

Sandy's witterings said...

Sounds a bit like one of these films where the animated character ends up in a real life film (or visa versa). I think you'll find the Acme lorry arriving very soon with a big delivery of holes.

Roschelle said...

I'm with you now and you've explained it wonderfully. I like the "narrative" explanation.

Even more thought provoking is the fact that nothing is as it seems...thanks to our man-made filters.

Good stuff, Kim! Now...hoping all is or will soon be well.

Sandy's witterings said...

Of course, that last comment comes from the person who only last week met a womble.

V said...

Please keep choosing to live a 'different story'! Although, that's unlikely ever to be up for doubt, no matter the challenges.

I think the intersting thing is we all assume our recollection of events or understanding of the narrative is the same, and it's so far from true.

If you, me and James Bond sat down for lunch in a cafe we would all have attended the same lunch. However, JB might have been facing the door and eating pasta, I might have had a baked potato facing the bar, and you might have been playing with the pepper pots and admiring the table cloth....same lunch, three different stories all coexisiting.

Telling our stories (metaphorically or otherwise!) allows us to take what is ours from any given set of circumstances no matter how close or far from 'reality', and speak our own truth. Those words say as much about the story teller as the facts contained within.

Phew, that was a ramble!

Thrup'ny bits said...

Kim, there are so many metaphors in the epiphany tagged posts: chalked lines comes to mind. Many more are provided in the comments.
I feel (note I'm a feeler not a thinker) I've spent this morning in a philosophy workshop.


Whenever questions about how we perceive the world arise Plato's Cave comes to mind. We are maybe no longer chained but we continue to stare at the shadows cast on the cave walls.

The hardest part of philosophy, for me, is forming the "right" questions to ask. Is it ever possible to ask a question to which one truly cannot know the answer? There are plenty of questions we ask and then imagine answers which are improved upon until a new question has to be asked. Perhaps there is no ultimate question to which there is no answer. I'm obfuscating. I am not a trained thinker.

We use metaphor to help explain until the metaphor no longer works and we think of a new metaphor.

As for understanding our place in the cosmology I use the metaphor of an extended photographic exposure of say a building where people are coming and going. When the plate is developed the people are no longer there. Except the fellow who stood stock-still staring at the camera. His experience of the scene would be one of hectic to-ing and fro-ing of the people . . .

and so I trail off into my own thoughts. Again.

These are the comments that I noted. Funny thing is I found I was quoting the same commentators.

SheBah said...

Kim, everything you say is so true. Too many people blindly follow rules without question (you only have to look at the SS for a perfect historic example). I think you should always question rules. If there is a good reason for them it will be pretty obvious. I have absolutely no time for the excuse "It's not my fault, I was only following orders". Obviously one doesn't disregard rules that may damage or disrespect other people, but down with sheep, I say!
2:30 PM, March 09, 2007

Kim in answer to Shebah - From a young age we are trained to follow orders. Why should we be so surprised when people do? Indpendent thought is like a muscle that needs to be exercised- first you have to realise you have it, then you have to use it

Shebah said...

Kim, you might like this quotation by that great Irishman George Bernard Shaw

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man".
11:53 AM, March 15, 2007

Kim in answer to SheBah - That's a great quote - thank you. It also puts me in mind of a line from a The The song: "If you can't change the world, change yourself, and if you can't change yourself, then change your world."

Sandy said...

Even when you realise you can write your own narrative there's always somebody there to correct your spelling and grammar and score out big lumps with a red pen and inserting little bits of there own and then you find if you jump straight into your newly discovered own narrative it all looks terribly disjointed of a sudden. Sandy
9:22 PM, March 11, 2008

Kim to Sandy - superb :) However, what you're doing at that point is accepting the Narrative of the Red Pen Warrior as superior to your own. But their's is just as much a human construct as your own

Paths, journeys, narratives all very useful metaphors for our brief existence here.

Alan word verification undso (and so?)

hope said...

I like the challenge to think and ponder...if you saw who I worked with, you'd understand why.

I love your thought process because it comes with a wink and a nudge minus that ALL KNOWING condescension which makes me think of college professors who secretly hated students. :)

In other words, it's fun to play here. ;) Have a good weekend!

Fay's Too said...

Perhaps all of life is a metaphor.
That was very well put. You put words to a very intellectually intangible concept. Good on ya! Make me think.

Carole said...

Huh?

I suspect you made millions writing the Matrix and The Truman Show.

I am painfully slow at writing my own narrative because I allow others to use the eraser on my story. But if it takes me ten more years, I guess it is better than not doing anything at all.

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - facts are always the least interesting part of any philosophical discussion :)

Adila - if life wasn't all ups and downs, then what would we have to blog about? ((hugs)) back :)

Emma - aha, I see - thank you :)

Sandy - the wombles did cross my mind...

Roschelle - I find the Narrative way of looking at things very useful - apart from anything else, it helps to explain the bizarre seeming ideas and behaviour of some others. Once you realise they are living in a different story with a different set of structural understandings, it makes a lot more sense :)

V - not a ramble - a nice expansion on the idea :)

Alan - I realised the other day that I'm constantly talking in metaphors and analogies. It's hard to get any explanation out of me without me likening it to something else. Still, it looks like you've had some serious thoughts - I'm impressed you went back and looked through the other posts :)

Hope - I despise 'all knowing condescension'. To me, the fun is in sharing. If I'm excited or interested by an idea, I want other people to be too. Trying to appear superior is a sign of deep insecurity

Fay - thank you :)

Carole - but you are moving forward with it - you've written your first book. You are a writer because you write and you said you wanted to become one :)

Thrup'ny bits said...

Oh, I woke up this morning thinking,"That bit about the long exposure was analogy"

Ron Tipton said...

Miss Laird, my 7th grade English teacher quoted Shakespeare (who I had never understood what all he fuss was about up to this point):

"All the world is a stage and we are but actors."

At that time, in my newly hormone infused 13 year old brain I did not know the significance of this statement. Now, at 68 years of age and a lifetime of experience behind me I know that I am an actor who was given a role to play during my life's journey.

We all have a role to play on the stage of life. Hopefully we can look back as the end of the third act nears and say we performed well.

Thank you Kim for a thought provoking post.

Mary Witzl said...

I definitely write my own narrative, but what I can't write is the appreciation or understanding of others. Most of the time I tell myself they don't matter, but the truth is, they do.

Umm...not sure if my metaphor is working with your metaphor, but there it is. It's late; I've been wracking my brains over a rewrite for the last, oh, two weeks, and there is hysterical girlish laughter in the background which is driving me mad.

Ruth said...

Kim, as I've had fire set to my stage more than once I'm thinking of relocating my stage. How, exactly, is that done? or are fireproof materials available? I'm assuming not...

I had an interesting conversation with a very practical man that I have been chewing over quite a bit. You may appreciate his conclusions: life isn't fair and it's a waste of time to think of it; pursue (honest) desire and things will fall in place.

The Pollinatrix said...

Yes! Brilliant! I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through this.

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

And you know, in a very real sense, photography is a metaphor for life .... more important question, were you insured? (Do I mean that literally, or in a metaphorical sense? You be the judge.)

litzi said...

Hi Kim,
We live in stressful times with people searching for significance in the chaos and peace in the turmoil.

It’s helpful to look at the ways in which each of us finds meaning and then share that not only with everyone, but also with anyone who’s looking. We should be open to the possibilities of new awakenings.

PonyGirl said...

Its kind of like jokes! if you have to explain a joke, its just not funny anymore. If someone has to explain a metaphor to you, they just dont have the same meaning to you as if you figured it out ourself.

Jayne Martin said...

It could just be that I had several glasses of very fine wine earlier this evening. Or it could be that you are so much my intellectual superior that I should just nod "yes" as if I understand WTF you're talking about and not embarrass myself. The truth is, I have no idea WTF you're talking about, but you state it with such eloquence that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Cheers...

Kim Ayres said...

Alan - it was, it was :)

Ron - the thing is, we don't have to take the role we fall into. Once we realise this we are free to change the script

Mary - no, we're very limited in what we can do for other people unless they work with us to create something new

Ruth - life isn't fair, it's true. Half the anger we feel is because we somehow expect it to be. Life is random. But what we can do is change how we interact with it. When we change the story, we change our experience of life

Pollinatrix - :)

Daphne - no, neither literally nor metaphorically...

Litzi - I find the Narrative way of looking at things an extremely useful tool - so much more seems to make sense this way, even though it too is just a Narrative

PonyGirl - but ultimtately it's about being understood - a metaphor that's too obscure is of no use to anyone

Jayne - then we need to sit down at a table together with a notepad and various items of cuttlery and condiment pots :)

PonyGirl said...

who needs to understand your methaphor as long as it means something to you? its always the same with writing, some will love it, some will hate it, some wont have a clue what you're talkin about and some'll think your smokin crack. but the ability to over look these setbacks and push on with your writing, now thats what makes a writer/poet to me.

Kim Ayres said...

I know what you mean, but perhaps this is why I don't really see myself as a writer. Primarily I'm a communicator. I love discussing ideas and creating new thoughts in myself and others. I've taught philosophy evening classes and always did my best to make sure no one was left behind.

I know other writers who are compelled to write. They would write even if no one ever read their work. Not so for me. My primary communication tool is my voice. I'm a talker. Writing is like a 2nd language for me, one I feel less fluent in. It's much easier for me to explain things face to face

Especially if I have a few scraps of paper, diagrams and bits of cutlery and condiment pots :)

Ruth said...

Oh Kim I know this is old and you probably have no need to come back to it but I'm enjoying the thoughts so much (I just don't do "news feeds", etc - I tried it but they are too demanding for life right now, so sorry! but you are one of the 3 "regular" blogs I check in on if noone else!)

The discussion turned in that direction with my saying that I hold no conscious belief that life should/will be fair but that I don't know what to replace that subconscious expectation with... he went on about the economy of motivation and reward (very interesting man- the mental route that he took to get to his conclusion was FASCINATING! He is an effective man of few words and deliberate congeniality so I listen closely to every word.) I'm thinking about which desire to pursue first and how, and also how to better protect my efforts (one of his comments - expect others to work against you [everyone is selfish in motive] and be delighted when they don't.)

I think that the "teeth" in our desire for fairness is a deeper need/desire for unity, peace, continuity. [hope] These things are constructive, foundational to constructive behavior, and we are compelled to create and "make a life for ourselves".. random thought. Please excuse the elementary nature of my words I haven't studied philosophy at all, this is just a piece of my motherly musings..

I use metaphors all the time too.. but I don't usually use objects, I use fanciful word pictures which confuse people without the facial expressions and questions.

I truly hope that while many of the props of your (family?) narrative have been destroyed, the souls involved are intact and largely unscathed - that the people aren't burned to the point of being crippled and needing healing before they begin rebuilding. And if they are, that you have all the informed support needed to heal as well as can be hoped for!

Jayne Martin said...

Yes. I understand exactly what you're saying and have long subscribed to the same view, but from time to time I forget and get mired in the muck of what I perceive as "reality." Thanks for the reminder, my friend.