Message in a Metaphor

A visual metaphor is a device for encouraging insights, a tool to think with…that is, with visual metaphors, the image-maker proposes food for thought without stating any determinate proposition. It is the task of the viewer to use the image for insight.  {Noël Carroll, Beyond Asthetics}

         I am fascinated by the metaphors that manifest in the world, in my own life, and in other people’s lives. Their role, as Noël Carroll says above, is to encourage insight.

          For the last few months I’ve been listening to the artist aspect of a friend’s personality...but by the time the conversation is over, several others have also had their say!  Bet you didn’t know that various aspects of your personality will express themselves in the same sentence?

Significance of Cinderella's Slipper
My friend and her partner, a writer, founded a small community theatre. They create the most amazing pieces of work on issues that concern and challenge communities, such as Conflict Resolution, Education, Community Safety and Policing; Knife and Gun crime etc.

This year she stepped out of her comfort zone, and agreed to direct a production of ‘Cinderella’, her local Borough’s Christmas pantomime.  Like the gifted magician that she is, my friend and her team’s expression of the author’s version of the fairytale generated sheer alchemy on stage. It received incredible reviews. Last week it was streamed internationally to hospices around the world.

From my friend’s point of view, the years have gone by…after achieving an Edinburgh Festival “Fringe First” early on in her career (a very big deal indeed) there still time for the artist to paint on a bigger canvass once again? She is reticent. Should she seek an agent? She knows she really wants to, but after such a long gap....

Then a congratulatory card pops through her mailbox; on it is a pair of gleaming red shoes with 10-inch heels. The caption reads: You can change your world with a pair of shoes. Wow. If that is not a sign then I don’t know what is. Go for it girlfriend; your audience awaits you.

Symbols and metaphors are concealed in everyday events. There is the ‘thing’ that happens (in this case a  card arrives – no big deal); but there is something more behind that which appears, if we care to take a look. Metaphors are devices for encouraging insight but it is up to us (the viewer) to make of them what we will.

A Dragon Awakes
One of the global metaphorical symbols which captured my attention in recent times was the eruption in April 2010 of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Although quite small for volcanic activity, it sent plumes of sulphuric ash all over Europe.

It grounded air transportation for a week and left millions of passengers stranded in over 20 countries. It had a major impact on global trade. After a pause it erupted again. By October when the snow on top of the volcano did not melt, the disruptions were over and we returned to business as usual; what else was there to do?

The volcano achieved notoriety for disrupting ‘our way of life’. But it did something else. In that week the global carbon foot print was significantly lowered.  In recent times Mother Nature seems to be generating various responses to global warming.

The symbolism of it all says if we are not prepared to voluntarily put action behind the words, then Mother Nature will do it for us, even if it is also true that geological causes played a part in awakening the sleeping dragon from a 200-year slumber.


And yes, I can hear you. It’s all subjective; you can read anything into anything. True; but then that’s how we create our own reality. The thing about a visual metaphor is, first you have to notice it; then decide whether it has any relevance at all to what is going on in your life, or in world, in the moment. And what exactly is the metaphor saying? Is it a warning, an indicator, an affirmation? And, we can decide to ignore it.


  1. Dorothy went to Oz to gain courage, overcome her fear of self.... Whilst there she also learned about compassion; gained knowledge and wisdom about her inner self and about the relationship she has withe the Divine (The Wizard)...
    Once Dorothy acknowledges who she is - she's given a red pair of shoes... These shoes 'take her home' She's living the life she was originally scared discouraged and innocently unprepared to live...

    I love symbolism.... Thank you Amari!!!!!

  2. Well that made me shiver through and through Mesdames Blaizes. The personal is the universal and the universal is the personal - how elegant it is. When it starts to snow we know that each snowflake is unique and when we look across a field it is a settled blanket of snow we see its whole.
    There is a story and a calling in every metaphor we encounter which are many every day if only we choose to notice. And then as Julian Of Norwich says " All will be well, All will be well, All will be well.

    Yak x


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