Metaphor, per se, is a rhetorically ambitious use of words as it helps people describe their lives which provides encouragement, inspiration, motivation, and puts things into a new perspective. In school, metaphor is a figure of speech that uses phrases or words for comparison between two things that aren’t alike but do have something in common. It describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true but helps explain an idea or make a comparison. Figurative as opposed to its literal use.
I am one of those lucky individuals, who by mistake of destiny, was able to enjoy the niche of a full-time job in another field and a stint of being a professor in college, imparting knowledge to learners of all ages. For every class assigned to me, I always tell meaningful stories of other people’s bravery, perseverance, humility, and other virtues anyone could think of. The details are slightly different every time I share them, but the core lessons carry forth. It is the idea that if someone is facing a challenge, a metaphor might help them see the bigger picture and give them strength. But let me remind you that life metaphors vary, either be positive or negative, and it does not necessarily mirror each and every one.
The examples below are some of the metaphors of people and scenarios I encountered as I walk through this life.
SEE THE FLOWERS
I spent my preschool days in Dagat-Dagatan, a small town in Caloocan City. One day, there was a middle-aged man, who happened to be my mother’s youngest brother. He needed to walk roughly twenty (20) minutes daily to the nearby water pumps every morning, carrying two (2) pails to fetch water for cleaning, cooking, and for other household chores. And carry the same back to our home.
The first pail which held the water flawlessly was newer and it doesn’t spill. The water on the second pail leaks on the ground the middle-aged man walked by, it has few cracks on it and is a bit older. So, when he arrived home since the second one has cracks on it, was left with roughly three-thirds of the water.
One Saturday morning, while going home after paying my mother’s debt to the nearby sari-sari store (neighborhood sundry store), I bumped into the man and asked him “Uncle, why are you still using the old pail? It is cracked. It spills water.” And he answered it with humility and because I was 5 years old back then, he uttered the lesson just like in a cartoon movie.
“You know Neng, the second pail told me this “For the past few years, I have been leaking water. I have a few cracks and at some point, I am not that helpful at all. I know that somehow, that it is better to replace me and get a new one”.
“And so, my niece, I just smiled and told the second pail “Did you see how lovely the gumamela, santol plants, and other flowers that grew on my path? Every time I walk to the water pump, I threw seeds on the sideway. And because of the leaking water from the pail, they grew so fast and they have never been dried. So who does the watering? It’s you, the second pail. Because of the few cracks that served as a watering pot.”
His words remained in my head all along and left me thinking until I learned that I needed to stop attending college. It was such a pain for me. It was just a semester away from graduation, but the financial crisis has been very persistent. But as years of whirlwind passed by, years of being the breadwinner supporting the entire family, the “cracks” I had, was also the same thing that pushes me to strive and aim for what I truly wanted.
Well, we all have a few cracks. The status of our personal life, work, school, and even our intimate relationship has everything to do with how we judge the cracks in our pail. Are those cracks wrecking us? Destroy us? Leave us no choice? Does it ruin and made us unworthy?
How about asking ourselves, “Do our cracks water other people’s lives? Did we fail to recognize that our own cracks make us a better individuals? Does it make us stand out from the rest? Are we useless or unstoppable?
Appreciate your own “cracks” and see how the universe will shift! Choose to SEE THE FLOWERS that grow out beautifully through the few cracks in our pail. PLEASE CHOOSE TO SEE HOW THOSE CRACKS MADE YOU GOOD ENOUGH.
THE GAME OF CHESS
Allan Rufus, a well-known author once said “Life is like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move. Knowing which move to make comes with insight and knowledge, and by learning the lessons that are accumulated along the way. We become each and every piece within the game called life.” Such a familiar analogy on the truthfulness of life.
Last semester, I decided to use our class meeting for something meaningful and different from our normal routine. I wanted them to breathe. I spent the last two (2) hours in Ethics class to know my students better (on a personal level) and to have a temp check. Few of them said they felt stuck and doesn’t know what is their next move. Others just want to be still and have no movement at all. While there are some who answered “they want to keep going“, “they will move forward“, “they will do things sideways” and “the possibility of moving backward.”
Truth to be told, almost no one wins the game of chess, just by moving forward. There were times when you need to move backward, in order to gain the position to win. Unknowingly, those were the chances when life teaches us that U-turns are allowed. Turning around is a must. We must understand that giving up and getting oneself to move in another direction are two different things.
YOUR MIND IS A MUSCLE
Our mind needs training. It needs exercise, in order to gain strength. The need to be worked consistently to grow and develop over the course of time. You see, people thought of their common issues in life, most of the time. From procrastination to unhealthy diets, lack of focus and presence, and so on. In time, we tend to realize that, in most cases, it is not caused by physical disturbance, but by the weakness of our minds.
One can choose to work out when it is easier to cook gourmet food and sleep right after. Someone will choose to listen carefully and pay attention when it is tempting to pick up a phone. There were others who will raise their hands and ask numerous questions, even if it take less nerve to be still, stay silent, and not enlightened. The best thing is, WE CAN CHOOSE TO CREATE SOMETHING SPECIAL WHEN IS IT MUCH EASIER TO BE MEDIOCRE AND ALWAYS IN A SAFE ZONE.
The good thing is, YOU HAVE A CHOICE. Each one of us has the power to push ourselves a hundred ways to attain what we really wanted in life, to make it in the ring, and wrestle with life.
A resilient mental strength lies in the accumulation of small, progressive daily victories and learnings. We must know that our day-to-day choices contribute to building resilient mental muscles.
ONLY WATER AROUND YOU
Our lives get much easier and less painful to deal with if we understand that most of the things we hold on to, aren’t really existing and are not there. And sometimes, even if they are there – they are fluid, impermanent and it is harshly “half-imagined” by our delusional minds.
Come to think of it, you’re blindfolded and raging against the water in the middle of the large pool; striving to grab the nearby edge of the pool. The truth is that “that edge” is imaginary “nearby“. And there you are stressing out, draining yourself, and tiring yourself out as you splash aimlessly to get a hold and grab for something that isn’t there.
Now, try to imagine you stop splashing water, take a deep breath and pause, and have a realization that there is nothing “nearby” to hold on to. It is just water all around you.
In this scenario, there were two (2) things you can possibly do. Either (a) accept the fact that there is only water around you so you relax and float. Or (b) make yourself exhausted and continue to struggle in grabbing something that doesn’t exist.
Today, ask yourself: Which one do you think you will be doing?
THE CASE OF TANGERINE
You were lying on a couch while watching your favorite Netflix series, and a tangerine was sitting on a center table in front of you. With eagerness, you grab it, take a bite and start to savor the taste. At the back of your head, you had an idea that it should be ripe tangerine should juicy, and sweet.
But after the first bite, you started to notice that it is a bit tarter than you expect. There were no signs of ripeness or juiciness. Your face felt a sense of shock and disappointment, and you felt cheated out of your expectation.
But what if, the tangerine tastes normal. It is sweet and has a flowing juice on it. You’ll just swallow it without pausing and not caring to savor or appreciate its flavor, you move from one bite to another until it is consumed.
So, there were two (2) scenarios here. First, the tangerine caused you disappointment because it taste different from the normal. Second, you took it for granted because it was too plain to appreciate its flavor due to the fact that it taste just as you expected and literally met your expectation.
IT’S EITHER IS NOT GOOD OR MAYBE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. See the irony?
Many of us feel disappointed, unexcited, and let down about a lot, or should we say “almost” everything. This is how many of us spend our daily lives, by being unhappy about things. It is because nothing really meets our expectations. We always wanted to get what we wanted. We always wanted to receive what we expect.
Imagine, when you remove your expectations of how the fruit “should” taste, and you don’t expect to know because it is your first time to try it. You turn out to be genuinely curious, open to a variety of possible flavors, and of course, impartial of how it tastes.
Upon tasting it, you pay attention and notice the juiciness and the texture of its pulp. Its tangy and sweet flavors play and twirl around your tongue as you chew. You realize that it is different from the rest because you don’t have any idea of how a tangerine tastes. That it is remarkable in its own way. For you, it would seem to be a worthwhile experience since you haven’t tasted it before.
The “BEGINNER’S MIND” as experts would call it. But for me, it is just a result of a “MINDSET FREE OF NEEDLESS AND STIFLING EXPECTATIONS.”
The tangerine can picture almost anything in our life. It could be any event, situation, relationship, the person we know, or can be any thought our mind perceives. Once we approach it with an expectation of it “should be’s” to be good enough for us, they will surely “almost always” disappoint us in different ways.
So? How about you, what is your metaphor in life?
***Opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and not by any organization.