I find I like images of paths with light at the end. Well, you may say, don’t we all? Probably-and there is a rather deep spiritual reason for that. The metaphor is: Continue the journey, keep heading toward the light, there is hope up ahead.
According to cognitive researcher Geroge Lakoff, we think in metaphors. As children of the Enlightenment, we don’t like this much, even though the word Enlightenment is, itself, a metaphor!
We say a rich guy is “on the top of the heap.” It’s a metaphor. We say there are upper and lower classes, but we don’t mean some people float twenty feet above the earth’s surface. I’ve had broke friends say, “I’m in the dirt!” But they were sitting on the couch in the living room.
Ancient stories use metaphors-symbolic representations of truth. We call ancient stories “myths” but this has come to mean “lie,” “untrue” “never happened,” the word myth has become polluted-“story” is much better.
Recurring stories tell us something about ourselves, they help us know ourselves-always a good thing. One recurring story is the heroic journey through a labyrinthian cave, dark, scary, the possible lair of both monsters and treasures. Theseus and the minotaur, Frodo and the giant spider in Lord of the Rings, or Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit.
The cave is a metaphor for the labyrinth between our ears, what the Bible calls the heart (as in the heart of the sea) or Freud called the Unconscious Mind. We cannot access it directly; there may be dragons in there, or there may be treasure in there, but it sure is scary in there!
The Enlightenment folks say: Then never go in there! Stay in the light! Just use that tip of the iceberg part of your thinking process, the truth is only what can be weighed and measured in the bright sunlight. Forget the cave.
But the labyrinth is between our ears. If the stories are suppressed, they will pop up elsewhere, as in our Super Heroes, or our worship of the warrior cult ala American Sniper.
We need stories, we live on stories, and we think in metaphors. Maybe it would be good to just accept this about ourselves and take another look at our stories, to see what they reveal about the hidden recesses of our own souls.