My Thoughts: Metaphor and Objectivity

a list of idea-tools that I may/may not use depending on if they turn out to be useful or true


LITERALISTS & METAPHORISTS. The two different approaches to the world are hard and soft. The literalists & the metaphorists. The spectrally inclusive and the purist exclusive. The story is the truth, versus the story illustrates the truth. Some look at the finger, and some at what the finger is pointing at. The map is not the territory. The masks of God are not God. Listen to the music not the song (Quote from Babylon 5 TV series). The context, the background, what’s underneath, not just the surface words.


OBJECTIVE & SUBJECTIVE ARE EACH OTHER. Those who say they are objective are really subjective as real absolute objectivity is impossible, so they are being dishonest in equating their views with objectivity. So they are subjective. So those who say they are subjective are being more objective by admitting their subjectivity. So how to see out of paradigms you are in? Come up with more than one view, and use those views as tools.


PESSIMISTS ARE NOT REALISTS. They are dissatisfied with the state of the world. This dissatisfaction implies that the world should be better than it is. So maybe they have an unrealistic expectation of how the world should be. For them the world is never good enough. It should be better (Eeyore). Optimists are not realists either. They have unrealistic expectations on how the world will turn out. This can lead to misfortune also (Tigger). Realists accept the world as is, and make the best of it from where it is (Pooh). (References to characters created by A A Milne as described by Benjamin Hoff in the The Tao of the Pooh 1982. The main idea here comes from an August 1st 2008 Guardian article by Mark Lawson


SIMILARITY IS NOT CAUSALITY. Most people die in bed, therefore bed is the biggest case of death. Obviously this is not the case, but far too often people write and say A is near Z, therefore A causes Z, or A is the same as Z. This is dangerously sloppy thinking. The patterns we weave can deceive us. (LINK to be added about cognitive bias research) Our awareness is at a point of the intersection of the vast differences; the cosmic scale, the sub-atomic scale, the inner psychological world and the outer physical world. There are many ways to describe it, and none can fully encompass it. Of course it will not be simple. Ways of expressing the true in one sphere will not necessarily be true in others. Nor will the connections be simple. (This is a regular theme on the BBC Radio 4 programme More or less. “Correlation is not causation.” They constantly say when critiquing the way the news misuses statistics.)


THE TRUTH OF A GOOD METAPHOR IS IN ITS USEFULNESS. Even though it may not literally be true, like imagining a line so that you can do a physical move in sport or dance better, it’s true because it works. But it is true only metaphorically, there is not literally a line of anything there. Experience and experiment (Science) shows that these are effective, and therefore true in a metaphorical way. (Terry Pratchett explores this idea in his Discworld character Granny Weatherwax’s use of ‘Headology’.)


LUCK/FATE. You largely make your own luck by your own attitudes and actions. It is not just your environment or circumstances. And with your circumstances one often includes ones commitments, but these we have chosen for ourselves, our fate was something we choose. We can therefore make other choices that will also change our fate. (The  research by Dr. Richard Wiseman published in 2003 in‘The Luck Factor’ proves this.)



“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;”

(Extract from “If…” by Rudyard Kipling 1895)


‘THE PAST IS HISTORY, the future a mystery, this moment is a gift which is why it is called the present.’ We are trapped between Habit (past) and Goals (future), but both are our Choices and now is when we make them. Though deciding to change and making the change can be difficult, any step towards making more mindful choices helps enormously.


FREE WILL VERSUS DIVINE WILL. Do we serve or are we victims of this, or do we make our own choices and responsibilities? Or are these choices part of the ‘divine plan’? If one thinks ones choices are pre-ordained, we equate ourselves with God, and give up responsibility for our actions. Only when we take responsibility for our actions do we become better people (this is one of the 12 steps for giving up addiction). BBC Radio 4 Something Understood “Born Lucky” December 27 2009 ‘Destiny Vs Free Will’ (Hay House 2007) by psychologist David Hamilton. “We all have stories about ourselves that influence our lives. Many of us see our selves as the hero or heroine or our lives. The person who wins through against all the odds. The person everything happens to. The lucky person. The unlucky person. The healer. The wounded healer. Or the eternal victim. There are many others too but if you ask people most of them don’t realise that they have even one of these stories going on. It’s all happening unconsciously. Even though we may not realise that we have these stories, they influence how we act in our lives, even shape what happens to us.”


EQUATING YOUR WILL OR OPINIONS WITH GOD’S IS THE HEIGHT OF EGOTISM. Some let children die saying it is God’s will. Others want to kill because they say it is God’s will. But they are deciding that it is God’s will, so it is really their own will. Research has shown that the opinions that people believe God has show a very close parallel with their own opinions and brain scans show that the same areas of the brain are active in both cases, but when thinking of the opinions of others, different parts of the brain are active. So here we see the shaping of God in our own image in our own minds. (LINK to research)


DESTINY HIDES RESPONSIBILITY. Destiny can be an excuse for avoiding your responsibilities by putting it on the Gods. The divine punishment or karma definition when applied to disease and suffering, can be an excuse for maintaining social inequalities, ‘God must approve of us being rich and powerful because he allows it to happen’. All beliefs have to be understood in their cultural context. They have social impacts, and serve social functions, but these may not be beneficial to all. (See Social Standing Or Understanding.)


WHY ME! Why was that branch allowed to fall and kill that person and not another? You interpret, giving it meaning based on your assumptions, worries and beliefs. You make it so. Making it good or bad by your own choice. (LINK Lucky/unlucky) You decide how to react to it and what to do afterwards. Your fate is just that. It is yours!


WE HAVE A CHOICE. To say we do not have a choice for our actions because it is fated is wrong. Also saying we do have control over events that we do not have control over, such as earthquakes by offerings, is also wrong. We control ourselves in the face of habit, instinct and social convention and then to some limited extent the world. Some shit just happens, and would have happened anyway, whatever we would have done.


WEALTHY OR POOR. CHOICE OR FATE. A view within some forms of protestant Christianity is that wealth indicates the approval of God, and conversely that disasters are punishments for sins. A belief that good and bad fortune as a reward or a punishment of the god/gods, means that anything you can get away with, no matter what harm it does, must divinely approved of and has nothing to do with your choices, the moral responsibility rests with the divine. When actually it rest with all of us and our choices.


INEQUALITY AND EQUALITY ARE BOTH CHOICES. Peoples own choices make them unequal. If all started with the same amount overtime, through changing circumstances and choices, differences will arise. But how society deals with them is the issue. Greed (profit driven companies) and selfishness do not reduce the difference, but sharing does (see relative differences in wages of co-ops versus shareholder owned companies). Difference is inevitable, but absolute poverty is not. (See Richard Wilkinson, “The Spirit Level: Why more equal societies always do better” 2009). And anyway your identity should come from social relationships, which are fundamentally about exchange and sharing (meals, ideas, time), and not acquiring endlessly more things for yourself.


BRITAIN IS FAIRLY FAIR. Some facts from ‘More Or less’ BBC Radio 4  18th December 2009 – The top 1% pays in 25% of all the tax revenue gathered by government. Approximately, the top 1/4 or 1/3 of the people in Britain pay more in to government than they get out over a lifetime, so the majority of people get more out than they put in over a lifetime! To reach the threshold of the top 10% of household income only requires £45,000 combined income. (Since 2009 however, the situation will have got somewhat worse I expect.)