Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Analogies Are Lies...But Some Are Helpful

Analogies and metaphors are lies.  Yet they tell the truth by telling a lie.

I can't help but think about this thoughts relevance to religion.  Religion, in my most un-humble opinion, is a lie, and yet, it can be such a helpful lie.

A quote from an email about this from a dear friend:

"A mother told me that her little girl asked if Santa was real, and the mom explained that even though he wasn't real, everyone pretended he was because it was fun and part of the ceremony of Christmas. So the little girl fell asleep by the tree waiting for Santa that Christmas eve, just like she always had. That's faith like a child to me: accepting truths, asking questions, and understanding truths deeper instead of rejecting them...I want truth, beauty and illumination like I always did, so even if Santa never comes I'll fall asleep with christmas lights on my face."--Nick Culp

Futhering the idea: Think of light.  We speak of light being a wave, but we also speak of light being a wave.  It's really neither.  And both.  Using those terms is lying, but it's helpful lying.  It serves a purpose giving us a platform to think of it.  These teaching tools abound in science--from the nature and function of electron shells, to multidimensional universes, to string theory and maybe even the nature of time itself.

This may sound weird, but kinda like a holodeck in Star Trek.  Nothing in it is real, but its simulations can be very helpful in learning about the real world and how to operate in it.  Religious truth can have a similar function.  It doesn't have to be real to give us a way of thinking about our own identity, the nature of reality and our function in it and that is valuable.  

One more example of a more practical nature--hurricanes.  Ever wonder why we name hurricanes?  It personifies the threat.  It gives it a personality.  People understand agency.  They don't understand pressure zones, wind patterns, storm surges, storm cells, etc.  Putting a name rather than a string of numbers literally saves lives.  Using a metaphor gives people a mental tool to address the threat and without hyperbole keeps them from turning into a casualty.  Lying saves lives!!

Here's a fascinating talk from TED about this way of thinking.  The summation is that this writer uses the idea of "muse" or "daemon" or "genius" to embody her creativity to separate and protect herself from the pressure, ridicule and fear that can accompany making your living off of being creative.  She doesn't think they're real, and yet the mental exercise improves her ability to produce great works of litterature.  Think about how this way of thinking might influence our perception of religion's function.


  1. hmm. very interesting talk. i think it's also interesting how people use their creativity and how it's instrumental and of value to them. what is one's motivation?
    as far as these ideas being relevent to this post, i may be off topic (and my thoughts may be a bit incohesive here) but I can't help but think of prayer. this has been on my mind for some time now. how prayer can be a form or outlet of creativity. why do people pray? and not only why they do it, but the fact that so much trust is being put into what seems to be a plethora of thoughts and words wrapped in imagery and analogies. or if we are saying that analogies are lies.. believing a lie can intervene. and one holds onto that like life needs breath. i was asking myself this some weeks back concerning prayer; because like any other creative outlet (journaling, singing, dancing, running) there is a release. not just a physiological release within the body but an emotional one that can help bring things back into perspective, that help us stand erect and a bit stronger. prayer, like a punching bag..a release of words accompanied with tears or joy (and even commands) to then feel a sense of belonging and strength trusting the unknown will bring us truth. how much of it is our own practice enabling us to get there and how much of it is believing something divine is gonna take us there? those are just some jumbled up thoughts of mine. very thought provoking post!

  2. You have an excellent point. Maybe I'm being unscientific here, but I'd say definitely keep praying. Prayer can be a great way to organize thoughts and emotions. When one prays at tends to be a great way for the mind to review your life and prioritize events and relationships. At least that has been the case for me in the past.

    I used to each day take the time to 'pray through the day' meaning I'd review in my mind as much of the days events as I could remember giving thanks for what I was thankful, supplicating where I was worried and repenting where I needed to change. Then I'd pray through the next day and fill it with my hopes and determinations. That's just plain healthy to do.

    Also, I remember noticing many times how my relationships were affected by prayer. Christ said to, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." I'd notice that my emotions about a person or relationship would change after praying for them. I couldn't continue to feel negative emotions toward a person that I had prayed for regularly. Prayer gave me too much perspective.

    If anyone heard me I don't know, but I do know that the daily, extended prayer I once engaged in changed me.


Please comment! You can comment anonymously! Please send ideas and topics to research and post on!!!