I read Paper Towns sometime last year to continue feeding my John Green obsession. And while it was no Fault In Our Stars, there were still some brilliant thoughts by the characters that made this a solid read. A quote toward the end of the book made me realize the power of life metaphors.
“There are a thousand ways to look at it: maybe the strings break, or maybe our ships sink, or maybe we’re grass–our roots so interdependent that no one is dead as long as someone is alive. We don’t suffer from a shortage of metaphors, is what I mean. But you have to be careful which metaphor you choose, because it matters. If you choose the strings, then you’re imagining a world in which you can become irreparably broken. If you choose the grass, you’re saying that we’re all infinitely interconnected, that we can use these root systems not only to understand one another but to become one another. The metaphors have implications. Do you know what I mean?”
I’ve grown up thinking that life is like a path. And the choices we make are forks in the road. We go left or right. And if you choose the wrong one, you’re screwed, or you have to go back. Or you know, you can find some sketchy, unpaved way in the creepy wilderness to get you on the right track again. (I fully blame the popular, and incorrect, interpretation of Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken”, which we were all forced to read and analyze with our little 7th grade brains from those unnecessarily heavy literature textbooks.)
A few months ago, my good friend talked about this book she was reading in our church life group. This book offered up a different image for what our lives look like in the hands of God. Rather than looking at our decisions as forks in the road, we should look at them like clay. Each decision we make is like tossing up a different tool that God can use to mold our lives. And because God is such an incredible artist, He can make beautiful things, regardless of what we toss up to Him.
This image was incredibly freeing. I’m a total “head in the clouds” type of person. But I live very self consciously up there. I’m jealous of all my HITC friends who chase their passions with little to no inhibitions. New ideas and inspirations fill me on the daily. Yet, there are far too many times that my fear of screwing something up, or heading down the wrong path, cripples me to the point that I don’t move at all.
I feared wasting time and energy, walking backwards, or getting lost. And I feared what people would think of me as they saw me struggling to find my way back. I even found myself envying my “boots on the ground” friends for their ability to focus on the tangible, and move forward strategically. How did I get so caught up in this metaphor for life that I, the idealistic/dreamer/artist, wished I was simply practical? There’s nothing wrong with being practical. But wanting so badly to be something that you’re not, is stupid.
You have talents; you’ve built skills; you have incredible strengths unique to you. OWN THEM. But I digress.
Getting back to the original point: The Power of Life Metaphors. We need to trash the comparisons that begin to negatively affect our lives. When you find one that motivates you in a positive direction, hold on to it. Let it be your mantra. But there’s no shortage of metaphors. In the end, it’s a choice we make for ourselves. We can choose to view our lives as a path or clay. We can choose to be happy with making progress, or we can waste time focusing on how much farther we have to go.