On Metaphor

Derived from the Greek words meta (over or beyond) and fero (carry), metaphor is a powerful part of language. This morning, metaphor went beyond language.

I blundered into my Quaker meeting for worship a few minutes late. The usual three-rowed square of seats around a table had been replaced by a two-rowed circle. And there were children among the seated adults.

At the centre of the circle was a black cloth. Onto it, one of the adults laid out her story, about the universe, the Earth and our place on it. She surrounded Earth, a multi-coloured pile of cloth, with wooden figures.

The figures, small, simple, jigsaw-cut, lay flat. Another friend stood up and said she wish she knew how she could help to bring humanity to its feet. She felt small, she said, powerless to do anything. She sat down.

After a minute, a woman walked around to the figures. She knelt and began to bring the figures to their wooden feet. Another woman joined her, then I did. Then two children came to help. It was soon done.

One person’s statement of helplessness had provoked another’s action, which, in turn, had prompted us to act. Our actions, the actions of adults, had, in turn, prompted children to act. None of this was premeditated.

I sat down and breathed out heavily. I couldn’t have said this in any way that was as profound as the action, the image or the experience.  These words and my pictures are an inadequate substitute. 


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