About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

08 January 2010

Take a Metaphor and Call Me in the Morning

I love metaphors! They open our eyes by showing us how something we can't understand is pretty much akin to something we can. For example, Albert Einstein used a metaphor to explain the difference between two communication technologies:
"The telegraph is a kind of very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and he is mewing in Los Angeles. Radio operates in exactly the same way, except there is no cat."
And, if you ever watch the television show House, you'll find the show's lead Dr. Gregory House - played by Hugh Laurie - using metaphors of all shapes and sizes to help him and his team diagnose and treat one mysterious illness after another. This one is from an episode titled Autopsy:
"The tumor is Afghanistan, the clot is Buffalo. Does that need more explanation? OK, the tumor is Al-Qaeda. We went in and wiped it out, but it had already sent out a splinter cell - a small team of low-level terrorists quietly living in some suburb of Buffalo, waiting to kill us all. It was an excellent metaphor. Angio her brain for this clot before it straps on an explosive vest."
Metaphors also help us to remember ideas and concepts. Here is an excellent example from Paulo Coelho's December 19, 2009 blog post. It's The Story of the Pencil taken from a work of his titled Like a Flowing River.
A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point he asked: "Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?"

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson: "I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up."

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special. "But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!"

"That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world."

"First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will."

"Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterward, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person."

"Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice."

"Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you."

"Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. in just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action."
A reader of the post added a sixth quality:
"The pencil continues to serve its purpose till its last bit. Time and age does not affect its basic characteristics and its ability to leave a mark. You do not have to stop being yourself or act any different just because you’re growing old!" - Amruta
  • What is a metaphor for the way you live your life?
  • The way you approach your work?
  • The contribution you and/or your business makes to others?
  • The value you place on your most important relationships?
  • The way you deal with obstacles, hardships, or fear?
  • The way you handle acclamation or success?
  • The legacy you want to leave?
"The highest human capacity is the capacity for metaphor." - Aristotle
"By indirections find directions out." - William Shakespeare, Hamlet II
"You don't see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it." - Thomas Kuhn
"The American mind is not even close to being amenable to the ideogram principle as yet. The reason is simply this. America is 100% 18th Century. The 18th century had chucked out the principle of metaphor and analogy - the basic fact that as A is to B so is C to D. AB:CD. It can see AB relations. But relations in four terms are still verboten. This amounts to deep occultation of nearly all human thought for the U.S.A. I am trying to devise a way of stating this difficulty as it exists. Until stated and publicly recognized for what it is, poetry and the arts can't exist in America. Mere exposure to the arts does nothing for a mentality which is incorrigibly dialectical. The vital tensions and nutritive action of ideogram remain inaccessible to this state of mind." "With most cordial seasonable wishes for you and Mrs. Pound." - Marshall McLuhan, in his 1948 Christmas letter to poet Ezra Pound
"If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won't be able to make much interesting sense of what's going on or of its place in it. That's not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear." - Karl Weick
"I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language - and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music." - Hunter S. Thompson

No comments: