On Life

On life

“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates,” says Forest Gump. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

As metaphors go, it’s pretty terrible, unless you have a box of chocolates that you’ve lost the little card that tells you exactly what each type of chocolate is.

George Gershwin posited that life is like a bowl of cherries.

Don’t take it serious,

Life’s too mysterious,

You work,

You save,

You worry so,

But you can’t take your dough

When you go, go, go

So keep repeating “It’s the berries.”

Others have described life as a piano: What you get depends on how you play it.

Or possibly, it’s like a photography: Focus is needed to have a good shot. Or it’s like the photograph, which develops from the negatives.

Or maybe it’s like the ocean: It can be calm and still or rough and rigid. But in the end it’s always beautiful.

If you’re a cynic, you might think life is like a bar of soap. Just when you think you’ve got it in hand, it slips away from you.

For the literate, perhaps it’s like a book: Everyday has a new page with adventures to tell, things to learn and tales to remember.

Or perhaps you’re philosophical about it: The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.

Shakespeare would have you believe that life is like a stage. How typical of a playwright:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts

More recently, psychologist Erik Erikson took the idea of life as a stage to proposing that life proceeds in stages. By his count, eight of them. And at each stage, we develop and change and become different people as life “vigorously unfolds.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of life, the meaning of metaphors, and everything in between recently, and I was struck by the thought that maybe life itself is the metaphor. What it represents is, well, life.

Stick with me on this one. Maybe things happen in the small scale, on a personal level, so we can understand what happens on the macro scale: in our town, in our province, in our country and even in the world.

Or maybe, things happen on a broad scale in the world so that we can understand our own lives better. That we can look at the big picture and understand, at least in part, our own existence.

Even in our own lives we can identify analogues for other parts of our lives. The process of cooking becomes a way of explaining our marriage. Having a shower is exactly like the way we relate to our now-aged parents.

Life, says Terry Scott Taylor, in his song Ribbons and Bows, is a shadow box. And love is a mystery. We fumble around, looking for meaning, looking for ways to understand it. “There may not ever be/anything here new to say/But I’m fond of finding words/that say it in a different way.”

So we create metaphors: Life is like running, like a bowl or cherries or a box of chocolates. But perhaps life, sometimes, is just like life.

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