There are two kinds of people – those who divide people into two groups and those who don’t.  Ah, but are there really?  We’ll return to that.

But first let’s look at metaphors –a metaphor is a way to attempt to understand something that you don’t currently comprehend by way of seeing it like something you do understand.  It’s taking two things which we know are very different but emphasizing some similarity between the two to gain insight.

Here’s a couple of examples courtesy of Stephen Colbert – speaking at a commencement address in 2006 – “Today is about you–you who have worked so hard to pack your heads with learning until your skulls are all plump like–sausages of knowledge. It’s an apt metaphor, don’t question it.”  – Or another – “An accountant is a manila envelope yellowed with age that fell between the filing cabinet and the wall. Trapped, alone, parched.”

Obviously, those students’ skulls were not sausages nor are accountants manila envelopes, but playing with the metaphor can often offer us a new way of looking at something.  My experience of college certainly seems like a lot of disjointed information was being crammed into my brain in some kind of mashing operation.  Accountants can seem like the organized holders of our financial records while the rest of our life is filled with chaotic playfulness. If we continued playing with these humorous metaphors, we might get some deeper insights…..but we at least get to see college and accountants in a slightly different light!

So where is there something that we have a difficult time wrapping our mind around that maybe a metaphor might help us understand it?  How about the meaning of existance?  That has to be one of the deepest questions that just doesn’t offer us a straightforward approach for answering.  Have we somehow quietly adopted a metaphor for understanding life that is driving our worldview?   I think many of us have.

So what’s your metaphor for life, for consciousness, for why you’re here?  What do you take from your experience that you believe you understand well and try to relate it to the mystery of existence so as to know it better?  It seems to me that many of us either view life as like a “school” or like a “game”.  Go with me on this for a moment…

Those who believe life is like a school think that we got plopped here on earth to learn lessons.  We are each in our individual desks (our bodies, our minds, our souls), the truth is being spoon fed to us, there is only one right answer or truth and we better learn it because we’re going to be tested on it.  Each of us has our individual soul that we came here with it if we can learn the truth as it is presented to us, then on our judgment/graduation day we can move on to a better place.

Those who believe life is like a game think that we came here to compete with each other.  We are the highest levels of evolving animals seeking to survive in a harsh world.  To succeed, we need to accumulate wealth and power.  Consciousness is just a byproduct of a physically evolved brain.  Any deeper meaning sought by using religion or God is just an irrational belief in the mind of the weaker individual.  The one who dies with the most toys is the winner.

We probably all know a lot of people that we could put into either of these two categories.  These two groups really have more in common than either would be willing to admit.  At the core of both is the belief that each of us is separate and apart from one another.  One says that each of us is here to live that life of separation so we can learn “the way”, be judged, and then move on to an eternal life of heaven or hell.  The other says each of us is here to live that life of separation so we can compete against one another and hopefully come out a winner.  Either way – we’re on our own.

The problem with both of these metaphors is that as long as we see ourselves as separate from the whole, we all too often end up caring only about ourselves or our group – disregarding the needs of the whole.  We tend to favor those who think like us, belong to the same political party, live in the same country, have the same skin color, belong to the same religion, have the same sexual orientation, etc.  As long as we are separate, it’s all too easy for us to judge others negatively, to be accepting of poverty and violence towards them, to turn our backs on their misfortune – after all, they are “different”.  So maybe these two kinds of people are really the same kind?  They’re both stuck in the metaphor of separation.

As we look out upon the problems facing our planet – how many of them are caused or exacerbated by our belief that we are separate?  If we saw ourselves as interconnected and all one people, would we have war?  Would we have selfish corporations maximizing profits while destroying the planet?  Would we put the wealth of the planet in the hands of a small minority?  Would greedy Wall Street banks have provided unstable loans, sold derivatives and set in place a chain of events leading to a recession?  Would we entertain ourselves by watching violence towards humans?  If we knew all our unity, then none of this would occur.

Maybe what we need is a new metaphor – one that removes the separation?

Next time – a new metaphor!

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!