The English language is a minefield of buried metaphors. Take “buried metaphor,” for instance. Standard dictionary definitions treat the phrase as an abstract term, defining “buried metaphor” as a word or phrase that, though originally intended as a figure of speech, has been used so frequently that it now represents a specific concept without the figurative connotation.
For as long as I remember, I have turned to words to bestow names, and through them meaning, on my experiences. Yet for the past five weeks, since the birth of our first child, this chain of significance seems reversed: in every day with our baby boy, new experiences uncover treasures of meaning in words I thought I had already mined.
One of these words forms the central metaphor of the brief and beautiful Psalm 131:
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Along with the treasuries of church liturgies, sacred music, special meals, and supremely, Scripture’s Passion narratives, poetry can aid the remembrance and contemplation we seek during the high days of Holy Week. This will be the first of several poem postings offered as Holy Week meditations, each including a brief guide to the poem before presenting the poem in full.
In Poetic Diction, Owen Barfield wrote, “If we trace the meanings of a great many words – or those of the elements of which they are composed – about as far back as etymology can take us, we are at once made to realize that an overwhelming proportion, if not all, of them referred in earlier days to one of these two things – a solid, sensible object, or some animal (probably human) activity. Examples abound on every page of the dictionary.”
In a different post, I explored the importance of metaphor and the idea that the metaphors we carry in our hearts change the way we experience life. In this post, I would like to explore some of the common, but dangerous, metaphors that form the way we understand school, teaching, and education.
Avoid these metaphors at all costs.
Metaphor to avoid # 1: A school is a business [The "Consumer" Metaphor]
I've been reading in the gospel of Matthew recently, and I just went through the passages where Jesus has been using parables to teach the people. At one point Jesus' disciples ask him (I imagine in a somewhat bewildered tone) why he is speaking to the people in parables. Jesus gives a mysterious answer that I am not wise enough to understand, but he also mentions the reason he is using parables is that "seeing, they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."
AFTER APPLE PICKING, BY ROBERT FROST
MY long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
A Footnote to All Prayers
by C.S. Lewis
I enjoyed this:
"We live by metaphor, even if we are not given to translating into words those complex combinations of emotions and the sensuous information our brains accumulate. The fine lyric poet reveals metaphors to us not as the baubles and decorative exempla of argument, but as the source and origin, the power before which mere statement pales because only metaphor can be both precisely concrete and richly suggestive, both utterly mundane and mysterious at the same time."
T. Alan Broughton
A Little NightMusic:
The Narrative of Metaphor