Metaphorically Speaking

‘tis nobler is feeling descriptive today:

Police are looking for a male described as being between 18 and 29 years of age, approximately 180cms tall, with a slight build and last seen wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and runners. He is known to be as cunning as a fox, with the demeanour of someone who has found 20 cents after losing $20.  He should not be approached unless you are backed into a corner and have nowhere to go but up.

Some descriptions are close to useless, some use comparisons that add depth and colour while the reviews for others are mixed, speaking metaphorically:

It is easy to describe skilled performance for the obvious elements are known and you just need to list them.  You can describe the way Federer serves, the way Vettel drives or the way Clapton plays the guitar.  Describing is easy, so, so much easier than doing and yet describing and doing are often seen as the same thing.  If you can describe, does this mean that you can also do?

Descriptions sit on the surface of the ‘What World’, outlining what is done at a very general level.  Being readily available but superficial, descriptions don’t detail everything that is performed for you need to explore the ‘How World’ and the ‘Why World’ to get this information.  All of these things come together to form understanding and, combined with direct, effortful experience, produce competence and expertise.

Descriptions may be a starting point but they never take you very far.  But their influence is not necessarily limited as the way you describe something (or the way others describe it to you) can guide your entire effort (or lack thereof).  For (doing) better or for (doing) worse, metaphors are a double-edged sword that could tip the balance either way!

Is learning to drive like falling off a log?  Is umpiring a football game like stealing candy from a baby?  Conversely, is learning to drive like trying to nail jelly to the wall?  Is umpiring a football game like trying to herd cats?

Metaphors are pervasive and influential, yet another example of the framing process.  How do you behave under the influence of descriptions?  Can you learn something through metaphors or do metaphors just affect your learning?

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