Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life as a .......... how do you fill in the blank?

I have to admit I am a sucker for metaphors.  I love it when imagination pours forth an image that gives illumination to some description-defying concept.

There was an episode of Star Trek (the Captain Luc Picard incarnation) that dealt with a group of aliens who only spoke in metaphor.  More than that, the metaphors only related to their own history and experience.  The automatic translators on the Enterprise were stumped and the resulting miscommunication nearly ended in annihilation for both groups.

Ah, the power of metaphor.

The other day, my daily journal musings wrote me into discovering a metaphor for life that appealed to me at the current time.  But to back up.....first let's consider the varied metaphors that exist for life.  From a bowl of cherries to girding oneself up for battle, life metaphors run the gamut.

There is of course the favorite of every spiritual seeker.....the journey.  Life as a journey has a certain appeal to me however I always seem to come back to the same questions. How am I traveling this journey? How long will it take?  When will I get there? Where is there?  As much as I enjoy occasional travel and visiting new places, the idea of being continually on the road has little appeal.  Do I really want to live my life out of a suitcase, be a nomad, never be home?  I don't think so.  I need my down time, my own bed, my familiar surroundings.  To always be going somewhere new and different would quickly lose its appeal for me I fear.

Life as a game has also never made sense to me.  I once saw a movie called The Game (I believe it stars Michael Douglas).  I hated it.  It left me feeling frustrated and annoyed.  If my life was a game, I believe I would feel like that most of the time.  Games inevitably incorporate competition, winners and losers, jubilance and disappointment.  None of these seem to portend a good outcome.  If I see my life as a game, I'll be accepting that some people will have to go by the wayside so I can move forward.  Not an image I am comfortable with at all.

For some folks (and I have indulged in this perspective at certain times in my life), everyday existence is like a rollercoaster.  Not only fortunes and misfortunes but also emotions go up and down according to what influences are allowed to affect them from outside.  This is a metaphor for a life out of control.  Riding high, plumbing the depths, climbing back to the top or sliding down into oblivion are the only choices.  Rollercoasters may be fun for a short while but as a way of life, they get old very quickly.

At times, I have found life to be a mystery.  Now I enjoy a good mystery novel every now and again, but living in one?  I don't think so.  When my life has entered a mysterious phase, I tend to do everything I can to restore order.  Mysteries may keep others entertained but solving clues every day in order to move on is not my idea of fun.  Although a certain amount of anticipation for the future is acceptable and even enjoyable, not having any idea where to turn on a daily basis is anxiety producing and harrowing.

Some people seem to enjoy battling with life.  Perhaps they were warriors or knights in a former life or perhaps they are just hooked on sensing victory at every turn.  Life somehow seems to give us what we expect it to, so seeing life as a battle often produces enemies to conquer and rights to wrong.  I'm too lazy to put on armor every day and go forth to slog it out with the world.  Coming home bruised and battered every evening isn't my idea of a day's work well done.

How about being the Captain of your own ship?  I must admit the idea of life as a ship does have some appeal.  The ocean of life contains everything we might need, the course can be set or changed and, although sometimes the elements conspire to buffet us, we also know that things will blow over and calm will be restored.  But do I want to be a Captain?  The Captain is in charge, makes all the final decisions and is responsible for all outcomes.  Sounds a bit like God......  I've heard that there is a God, and I'm not it.  Thank God!

My musings the other day took me further with the idea of life as a ship.  What if, instead of being the Captain, I saw myself as a crewmember?  I liked this idea.  A crewmember on the ship of life would be contributing to the good of the whole crew and to getting the vessel to its ultimate destination.  The ship would not only be the means of traveling the journey, but it would also be home.  As a crewmember I didn't have to be responsible for the major decisions only for my own part in the smooth running of the ship.  I could take pride in my work, follow directions and rest, knowing that I was sharing this workload with others.  As a crewmember I have a specific job to do, an area of expertise.  I am a vital part of the team that gets the ship to where it needs to go.  This could be satisfying and rewarding.

As you can tell, I got on a roll with this metaphor, focusing on the positive aspects of my image and ignoring the downside such as seasickness, flogging and scurvy.  But such is the nature of metaphors.  They are pliable.  They are selective.  They are easily manipulated.  That is what makes them such fun.

So I'm volunteering as a crewmember on the Ship of Life with Captain God and we are off on an exciting adventure.  Heave ho, m'hearties........what life metaphor are you living in?