Evolution and the Anthropic Principle
Richard Dawkins vs Ken Wilber
Where Am I
The Cheshire Cat
I Could Have Been a Contender
What I Wish Id Said
Keeping Up with the World
The Flight of the Phoenix
The Power of Fog
Naming the Unnamed
Principles in Art
Spirit and Matter
The Enlightenment Conundrum
On Believing
Water? What Water?
Telling Stories 2
I believe in Rainbows
Whom Can We Believe
Patterns by Paul Simon and Douglas Hofstadter
Copyright Inheritance
Broad Minded
Beliefs Part Two
A Long drawn-out solstice
The Quest for, and the Illusion of, Certainty
To the Ends of the Earth
The Meaning Of Life
We Hold These Truths
There are Beliefs
Music and Language
Circular Thinking
Runaway World
Deep Playmate
An Alchemy of Telling
Cultural Genes
The Joy of Science
The Conundrum of Human Nature
No, The Computer Isn't Smarter than I Am!
A Rant on Religion
The West Wing Turning Right?
The Geometry of Spring
Music as Language
What is Art
Beauty and Spirit
You Don't Understand Us
The New God of Probability
Gene Hackman as President
Being Lifted Out of the Ordinary
The Head and the Heart
Pay Attention!
Music Poetry and Meaning
On Seeking Truth
Perceptions and Reality
The Marriage Bond
Taboo is a Right
Copyright versus Copyleft
Cycles of Transcendence
Ego and Self
The Big Picture
Mindfulness as Larger Mind
The Power of Words
The State of the Union
Out of My Mind
Family Thoughts
One Life
Telling Stories
Small World
Bigger Realities
What Comes Next
Humor as a Higher Level of Consciousness
Sometimes Everything Goes Wrong
Emotional Resonance
Extraordinary Respect
Insight Meditation
Us and Them
Paradox and Paradigm
To Reach
I Don't Know
Don the Romantic
The Guy in the Blue Saab
The Sound of Silence
Eating is an Intimate Act
Evolution of Spirit
On Cloning and Other . . .
Creativity and Psychic Phenomena
Magic in My Life
My Difficulty with Aaron
Mindful & Mystic
Taste of Irony
Music Appreciation
Levels of Consciousness


 Judith and I were talking on the way home from an event the other evening, and she asked, in a rhetorical kind of way, if I thought everybody had a thin veneer of persona that they present to the world, but that beneath the veneer was a baby, a helpless and mixed-up little kid. I agreed, although I didn’t follow up by asking her the most obvious next question, where her question had come from, what train of thought had concluded with such a picture. Instead, I followed the image in my own mind, exploring its shape and consistency.

The gift of metaphor allows us to study many aspects of our world. Beyond providing us with a way to communicate by pointing out similarities between concepts, metaphors give us templates to explore things in our experience when we don’t have ready-made maps. From her question, I pictured a kind of gourd with a hard shell and a soft, gelatinous interior. Pierce the shell with some event or weapon, and the “real” person is revealed, shapeless and messy. It seems true that we humans spend a lot of our energy firming up and decorating our outsides so that nobody will know how weak and ugly we “really are.” Not a new metaphor, certainly.

A metaphor becomes an analog when it is carried further in our thinking. For example, the word distance is sometimes used to suggest how we feel about another person in our acquaintance: they seem distant from us, difficult to know, unapproachable. “She seems distant.” I cannot feel close to her somehow. I don’t know what she is thinking (about me, typically). To turn the metaphor into an analogue, I might speak of her seeming “miles away” or psychologically moving away from me in her affections, and generate an image of physical space between us, she becoming smaller with distance or—perhaps more to the point of my feelings—I becoming smaller in the picture from her point of view. “Smaller” is another metaphor for “less important.” The analogy becomes a template, a separate thing that I look at and describe. It may or may not fit accurately what it is I’m trying to understand, and to the extent that it does not, I risk misunderstanding the real issues involved.

So here I am, driving home at night, thinking about gourds and amorphous insides (a revealing image in itself), trying out the analogy between physical objects and personalities, while my wife is thinking about something much more personal, perhaps an interaction between herself and a friend, trying to understand what happened. (Note to myself: ask her what she was really thinking about.)

My gourd—and I probably voiced some of this thinking as it occurred—might have a thicker or thinner shell; it might be more or less attractive to others; it might resemble more or less the interior. Inside, the substance might be more or less structured. Ideally, I thought, it would progress from its quivering core through a continuously firming articulation to a consistency just beneath the surface not unlike what is presented to the world, and not completely distinguishable from the outside. The shell would be thin and permeable, easily pierced so that the inside is accessible and knowable by others. Perhaps, to inject another metaphor, like a well-made custard with just the slightest membrane of a surface to keep its shape. (Moving the image into an analogue, I wondered about the taste of the custard, whether a tough skin affects it or merely makes it more difficult to know, and thought about how well the template might match what we find inside a person whose persona we manage to pierce.)

No, the custard does not work very far in my analogue. I’m still working with my ideal person, whose degree of integrity, accessibility and attractiveness all fit into some kind of picture that I can trace with words.


December 24, 2003

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