Everything’s a Metaphor

The word metaphor is generally refers to the figurative use of one word or phrase to describe another unrelated word or phrase. It is non-literal. For example, “time is money,” is a metaphor, because time is not literally money. However, as the title of this post suggests I am using the word ‘metaphor’ with an expanded, (you might say, metaphorical), meaning. Let me explain why everything’s a metaphor.

When someone says, “I like this coffee,” what do they mean? This is fairly cut and dry, no metaphor in sight; they mean just what they have said, i.e. they enjoy the coffee they are drinking, just finished, or saw the bag of, etc., which precise meaning is context dependent. That’s all very well and good, but what do they really mean? That may strike the reader as a strange question but here’s my point. The metaphoric is omnipresent in everyday use of language. When one says, “I like this coffee,” what they mean to convey is the nebulous and impossible to precisely define conception of enjoyment of “this” coffee. Ask them why they like this coffee and you may be treated to a soliloquy on its aroma, taste, mouthfeel, or some memorial-emotional connection. Yet, ask them why they like that taste, that aroma, etc. and most will be at a loss to explain. A great deal of human experience is hidden from conceptualization by both outsiders and ourselves.

Thus, everyday language, and even more precise academic language, cannot capture everything one means. At best language can hint at the outside world and the internal mental world.  I think this hinting is best described as “metaphor.” Furthermore, much of people’s everyday speech is not as direct and simple as, “I like this coffee.” A great deal of the time, interpersonal communication, especially among friends and family, involves shared secrets, inside jokes, and communicative short-cuts.  Here, there is yet another level of abstraction, thus another level of metaphor.

One criticism of this view maybe that it is a little thin on explanatory power. For example, of what is the phrase “I love you” a metaphor? Well, it is a metaphor of the experience state of the feeling of love for the loved person by the speaker. Great, says the detractor of my view, but what exactly does this actually explain? Here is the problem; it doesn’t really explain anything, because it cannot. Language is metaphorical, therefore trying to explain on metaphor leads to another metaphor and on and on. This is why even the very statement that everything’s a metaphor is a metaphor. Where does this leave us?

This position does nothing to one’s everyday life. Language is still the same; ideas still remain as they were. Might this position affect one’s world view? Perhaps, but it needn’t. Just because language is ultimately a collection of imperfect metaphors about the world, doesn’t mean that knowledge is unattainable, or that this or that thing doesn’t exist, or that language isn’t one of the best tools (if not the best) we have in life. As Haruki Murakami wrote: “A certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect.”

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On 2016

As the year draws to a close, it is a perfect time to reflect on the year and look to the future.

According to some 2016 has been the “worst year” (e.g. here). Indeed, some very bad things did happen in 2016. Here’s a brief list: celebrities died, the United States continued to be a statist nation that elects presidents who have too many powers, there were diseases, there were wars, terrorism, other things anyone doesn’t like happened. How sad. I mean compared to 2016 all other years fail to even register as bad, for example: 1916 with the Battle of Somme; or the Plague years; or 1941-1945, with the Holocaust; or 1520-21 for the Aztec (fall of empire); or any of the years 1861-1865 in the United States.  I think my point is clear, 2016 wasn’t all that bad, it wasn’t great but there has never been a “great” year if you think about it.

Beyond the nostalgic view of some golden pass, every year looks pretty bad but also pretty good. Here’s the long and the short of it. People die; fight; make choices others think are wrong, stupid, dangerous, or whatever; bad, even terrible, things happen, often to good people; there are diseases and wars and potential despots and dictators. However, there are many positive things that make life worth living, for example (without getting religious): the sun continues to rise and give warmth; people fall in love, make friends, and build communities; cures for diseases are found; disasters are avoided; people innovate more and more every day. Indeed, it is true that there are many, many things that are terrible in the world, but there are just as many things that are wonderful. Certainly, some things are looking down, but just as many things, if not more, are looking up.

There is an important point here that is easy to miss. All of us are very good at projecting problems into the future, both our own problems and the world’s problems; but we are very bad at predicting the innovations, the solutions, and the ideas of the future. If you truly believe that 2016 was one of the worst years ever, than it should be a starting point to inspire new solutions. Indeed, that’s what has happened before. Many things have gotten better over the time. Disease, violence, war, and poverty have decreased over time; whereas, life expectancy, literacy rates, and standard of living have increased over that same time. Indeed, if you think about it, one of people’s biggest complaints about the year is that it “took” so many celebrities.

First of all, the year does not “take” any one, the year doesn’t do anything. People die during the year, not because of the year, but because of any number of things including: age, health conditions, lifestyle choices, accidents, or a combination of these things. More importantly, it shows how go things actually are that one of the biggest complaints about the year is that so many famous people have died this year. It is true that anyone’s death is a tragedy, but it hardly makes a 2016 any worse. I also understand that many people that bemoan this year aren’t complaining mainly about the death of celebrities but about war (a legitimate complaint, but overall this year was better than, say one hundred years ago – WWI), or, sadly much more likely, political votes not going how they would have liked.

First it was Brexit (a truly ridiculous word, but never mind) and then it was the election of Donald Trump. Let me be honest, I think the British vote to leave the European Union was a good thing (light your torches) and I am a harsh critic of Donald Trump and I voted against him (for Gary Johnson). Let’s talk Brexit for a moment, I believe that it was the best option not because I believe strong nationalism is necessarily a good thing, nor do I hate immigrants; furthermore, I think the average British person that voted in support of Brexit did not vote nationalistically or because of some deep and profound hatred of immigrants; I would hazard the guess that most of them were simply unhappy with the increasing power of the EU. I understand that one can think I am totally wrong and that’s perfectly okay and won’t ruin my year. Now onto Donald Trump; if his election actually ruined your year, I’m sorry. I really am. You see, if it truly ruined your year you obviously are under the twin delusions that (a) the US president is all powerful and (b) government and society are actually the same thing. Guess who also has these delusions: people that blindly support Donald Trump. Will he be a great president, no; a good president, maybe; a bad president, maybe; a terrible president, maybe; a dictator, no.  If you are honestly afraid of Donald Trump, you have a problem; there’s a difference between being literally afraid of him and thinking his policies will be bad.

The president is not all powerful, they cannot do anything they wish, the likelihood that one will become a death camp administering life-long dictator is low; not impossible, but very, very long while this country is at least somewhat stable. The likelihood that Donald Trump will become dictator for life is next to zero, as is the probability of him jailing those that dissent. There is a simple reason: everyone is on guard about his actions before he has actually assumed power. The moment he does something debatably unconstitutional he will have hundreds if not thousands of people fight him in the courts.

More deeply, politics is not life. Government is not society. At most it is a poor and distorted reflection of society. We must not allow government to replace society, the bullet to replace the book, or the black-and-white thinking to replace nuanced, gradated thinking. In the end, life will go on no matter what individual is the president of the United States.

2016 has been a mixed bag, but every year is. Think back to any other year and you’ll find that there were just as many negatives as 2016. Perhaps, the problem is looking for the negatives. If one looks to be saddened, outraged, or otherwise made upset, they have ample opportunities and outlets. 2017 is fast approaching and it will be just as much a mixed bag as 2016. Maybe, just maybe, if we all try not to find ever more things to be upset by and to divide ourselves over the world can continue to improve. I hope that 2017 will be a year of increased intellectual dialogue, informed and nuanced thinking, and ever more free discourse.

Pulling away from this wide view of the year and towards the personal, you are the only one that can determine how the year was for you and how the next year will be for you. In the words of Marcus Aurelius: “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Some Thoughts

Before jumping into this article I will warn that it is a little strange. Instead of being an article on one topic, thoroughly covered, it consists of many short ideas. Have fun and comment if you would like to see a longer article on one (or many of these) topics!

The primacy of questions:

To ask a question is a simple task that many people do on a daily basis. Mostly questions such as “what’s the weather?” and “how are you?” Many questions are used not so much to find things out as just to facilitate conversation or to be polite, it is doubtful that someone asking “how are you?” to a cashier is truly inquiring after their well-being. These sorts of questions are important; however, there are questions that are far more important. Obviously important questions would be things like “why is there something rather than nothing,” and “what is the meaning of life?” These questions do not have clear answers. Nevertheless, there are questions that are less obviously important while having tremendous importance in life. One such question is “why?” or “for what reason?” Why is the most overlooked and underused questions in life. At some point one might run out of answers but they will never run out of questions, this is the reason that questions are so important. Never stop asking.

 

Anything can be true:

It may seem an outlandish proposition to say that any statement can be true (here meaning without error). This means that a ridiculous statement like “the Pope is a married bachelor” can be true. The reason for this is that using the right definitions one can make any statement be without error. For example if one were to define “married” as “in a committed relationship to anyone or a anything,” “bachelor” as “any man not wedded to a person;” therefore, the Pope is, in fact (truly), a “married” (to the church) “bachelor” (not wedded to a person). Therefore, anything can be semantically true, though not objectively true.

Philosophy should be taught in high school:

There are a few ways that I would reform education (increased focus on literacy, encouragement of bilingualism from the start, etc.), but one of the major reforms I would like to see is that everyone high school student takes two classes which I call “philosophy.” One of those classes would be an argumentation and rhetoric class (this is the bedrock of all philosophy and perhaps all knowledge) and the other would be a great survey class of major schools of philosophy. These two classes (especially, the rhetoric class) would greatly improve students abilities to think clearly and logically,  improve their abilities to see the world through different perspectives, improve their abilities to think things through, and expose them to a wide range of ideas. The practical (i.e. non-academic) value of this would be to help foster students’ abilities to come up with novel solutions to real problems.

Drinking tea:

I love drinking tea. I love many varieties of tea and rarely turn down a cuppa. There are few finer things in life than a simple cuppa. However, I do not merely love tea for the taste. There are many things that I enjoy the taste of but would not say I love. Tea is as much about taste as it is about culture, history, and companionship. There is great amounts of culture conjured up by merely drinking a certain cup of tea, it transcends physical, linguistic, and temporal borders. Tea is deeply tied to history, not merely of one nation or place, but of the world. For good or bad tea has been a powerful force in human history. There are few things (at least for me) that cement companionships than having a cup of tea (or coffee) together. Food has always been a major relationship building device, for example look at the word companionship for a moment. Com comes from the the Latin con meaning with (it changes from con to cowhen it meets the in pan; just try saying conpanion without it sounding like companion). Tea is not merely a matter of taste, it is a cultural experience, a doorway to history, and a builder of relationships.

The one phrase that defines the 2016 U.S. presidential election:

There is one phrase that defines the entire 2016 U.S. presidential election: party over principle. Indeed, this may be the defining phrase of every election in a liberal democracy with a strong party system. The party system is a perfect breeding ground for corruption, elitism, and nepotism. There is a great pressure to support one’s party even if the chosen candidate is in opposition to some (or all) of one’s political principles. The 2016 U.S. presidential election is making this plain to see. There are socially conservative individuals are lining up for a man that is offensive to the principle they hold dear (chastity, morality, honesty) and social democrats (who had a candidate cheated out of nomination) are lining up for a woman whose actions are against their principles (taking money from Wall Street). They do this because they think the other party’s candidate will be so much worse, nonetheless, they are placing party over principle.

 

 

Who drinks the most Coffee?

It might be surpirising, but the US does not drink the most coffee per capita in the World. Even with a Starbucks or similar coffee shop on seemingly ever street,the US isn’t even in the top 20. Who drinks the most? Here is the top ten list based on Kilograms per capita:
1. Finland
2. Norway
3. The Netherlands
4. Slovenia
5. Austria
6. Serbia
7. Denmark
8. Germany
9. Belgium
10. Brazil

The US is 22nd in case you were wondering.

Source (plus full top 50 list): http://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-what-the-world-drinks

8 Steps To the Best Cup of Tea

Sometime you might find people telling you how to make a “good,” “proper,” or even the “best” cup of tea. This all can leave you confused, well look no further for the definitive guide to making the best cup of tea.

Steps:

  1. Find the tea you like the best
  2. Buy that tea
  3. Heat water to the temperature you think is best
  4. Brew the tea in the way that works for you
  5. Pour tea into favorite cup or mug
  6. Add sugar, milk, or whatever you like, if you wish too
  7. If you want to add these things before pouring the tea into the cup, do what you think best
  8. Drink the tea and enjoy

In short, make your tea (or coffee, or whatever) in the way you like the best.

New Page!

There is a new page up today on this site. It is called “Knaves and Other Insults.” It is dedicated to the best of interesting, witty, and strange insults. It was made because sometimes one just needs to let lose and call someone a foolish, pointless knave.

The page is meant to just be fun, but I have no control over what one does with these insults (nor do I want any such control).

Enjoy!

Google Translating Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias

Just for a bit of fun, I took Shelley’s poem Ozymandias through 52 levels of Google translate. So this:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Became this:

This is just the beginning.
“I stopped the legs and body.
School
now the dam
mouth
I love this statue.
Salon airspace.
This half.
Product Category:
“I’m the king of this Doraibaezu.
When I was young, in my opinion, preferences,,
it is difficult to
dirty
I wonder

Here are the steps:

  1. English-Armenian
  2. Armenian-Catalan
  3. Catalan-Welsh
  4. Welsh-Polish
  5. Polish-Punjabi
  6. Punjabi-Romanian
  7. Romanian-Zulu
  8. Zulu-Russian
  9. Russian-Hmong
  10. Hmong-Basque
  11. Basque-Uzbek
  12. Uzbek-Thai
  13. Thai-Turkish
  14. Turkish-Dutch
  15. Dutch-Maori
  16. Maori-Latvian
  17. Latvian-Esperanto
  18. Esperanto-Hungarian
  19. Hungarian-Arabic
  20. Arabic-Serbian
  21. Serbian-Latin
  22. Latin-Greek
  23. Greek-Hindi
  24. Hindi-Lithuanian
  25. Lithuanian-Swahili
  26. Swahili-Spanish
  27. Spanish-German
  28. German-Georgian
  29. Georgian-Filipino
  30. Filipino-Azerbaijani
  31. Azerbaijani-Chinese
  32. Chinese-Icelandic
  33. Icelandic-Gujarati
  34. Gujarati-Irish
  35. Irish-Finnish
  36. Finnish-Macedonian
  37. Macedonian-Estonian
  38. Estonian-Chichewa
  39. Chichewa-Tamil
  40. Tamil-Mongolian
  41. Mongolian-Albanian
  42. Albanian-Danish
  43. Danish-Lao
  44. Lao-Malay
  45. Malay-Slovak
  46. Slovak-French
  47. French-Korean
  48. Korean-Maltese
  49. Maltese-Khmer
  50. Khmer-Japanese
  51. Japanese-Czech
  52. Czech-English