"Words can be used thus paradoxically because they have, along with a semiotic usage, a symbolic or metaphoric usage. (They also have a sound—a fact the linguistic positivists take no interest in. A sentence or paragraph is like a chord or harmonic sequence in music: its meaning may be more clearly understood by the attentive ear, even though it is read in silence, than by the attentive intellect.)"
— Ursula K. Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness Foreword
"One of the essential characteristics of a writer is the willingness and ability to see the stories in our lives and to believe that our observations, thoughts, and obsessions are worth following to the page."
— Theo Pauline Nestor, Writing is My Drink
Whether in national politics or everyday interaction, people in power get to impose their metaphors.
Metaphors may create realities for us, especially social realities. A metaphor may thus be a guide for future action. Such actions will, of course, fit the metaphor. This will, in turn, reinforce the power of the metaphor to make experience coherent. In this sense metaphors can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
An recently arrived Iranian student took a seminar on metaphor from one of us. Among the wondrous things he found in Berkeley was an expression, "the solution of my problems" — which he took to be a large volume of liquid containing all your problems, either dissolved or as precipitates, with catalysts constantly dissolving some problems (for the time being) and precipitating out others. He was disillusioned to find other students had no such chemical associations in mind. And he might be, for the chemical metaphor is both beautiful and insightful.
The chemical metaphor gives us a new view of human problems: the experience of finding that problems we once thought "solved" turned up again and again.
The chemical metaphor says problems are not kinds of things that can be made to disappear forever. To treat them as things that can be "solved" once and for all is pointless. To live by this metaphor, you would direct your energies towards finding what catalysts will dissolve your most pressing problems for the longest time without precipitating out the worse ones. The reappearance of a problem is a natural occurrence, rather than a failure on your part to "solve it."
At present, most of us deal with problems according to what one might call the puzzle metaphor, in which problems are puzzles for which there is typically a correct solution — and once solved, they are solved forever.
Let us consider the new metaphor love is a collaborative work of art.
Our personal views of work and art give rise to at least the following entailments for this metaphor:
Some of these entailments are metaphorical (eg. love is an aesthetic experience); others are not (eg. love involves shared responsibility). Each of these entailments may themselves have further entailments. The result is a large and coherent network of entailments, which may, on the whole, either fit or not fit our experiences of love … what we experience with such a metaphor is a kind of reverberation down through the network of entailments that awakens and connects our memories of our past love experiences and services as a possible guide for future ones.