I’m sure this happens to everyone in some fashion. A friend knows you majored in whatever you majored in while at college or, if you didn’t go to college, you developed a fondness for a certain area of interest. That friend, therefore, assumes you paid attention in class and treats you like an expert on the subject whether you deserve it or not.
I majored in English. And now I’m expected to know things like how to diagram a sentence, how to write in iambic pentameter, and how not to dangle participles. My ability to do those things is hit or miss. Okay, it’s a total swing-and-a-miss when it comes to iambic pentameter.
When I’m put to the test, I can often skirt a direct answer simply by saying something lofty like “Oh, that’s a really complicated answer. I could explain it to you, but your mind would probably go into a boredom induced coma. Just write it this way instead.” But sometimes, there’s no getting out of it unscathed.
A group of friends were sitting around talking the other morning when one of them remarked, “Some people show up and put on an apron. Others show up and put a bib on.” We all liked that metaphor. “Wait, is that a metaphor or is it an analogy?” someone asked. All eyes shifted my way.
“Well, I can tell you for sure that it’s not a simile” I offered unhelpfully.
Whether it’s a simile, a metaphor, an analogy or an allegory shouldn’t detract from its power. That is why we use them; their power. A pithy simile can make you nod in agreement like a bobblehead. A well-placed metaphor can sock you with hurricane force. An analogy has the staying power of an ancient oak tree. And a thoughtful allegory can get you really worked up about the pig having absolute power around the farm.
And this power can be found in surprising places if you learn to look for it.
I found power while looking at a hydrangea in my front yard. I’ve got nothing against a pink hydrangea (unlike Madonna) but I prefer blue so I have been adding aluminum sulfate for a couple years and you can see by the bloom on the left that it is starting to work.
While I photographed this plant, it struck me that in some ways, our lives mirror this hydrangea. The (almost) blue flowers are no more innately good or valuable than the pink flowers are. And even though they look very different, they are part of just one body.
In the same way, our lives, personalities, and relationships are filled with different things, often opposite things, that are no better or more valuable than the other.
I find this to be true when I consider how I straddle the line between maintaining healthy eating habits to help me live a long life and eating, drinking and being merry to help me live a full, rich life.
But it could apply to any number of things. For instance, it could speak to how we spend our time: should we relax with a book or energize with a hike? Or it could speak to how we spend our money: should we save for retirement or go on family vacation? Or how we interact with others: should we offer selfless advice or just listen? Should we let that comment slide or stand up for ourselves? Should we be uncompromising in our convictions or should we learn to compromise?
Of course, if you know exactly who you are and who you are works for you just fine, there's certainly nothing wrong with a peaceful and consistent whitish-pink life.
Or even an airy, light blue and white life with a little variegated background if that's your thing.
And that aluminum sulfate is, of course, a metaphor for something else. Unlike the apron and the bib which, I believe, is an analogy.