Friday, March 25, 2016

The trail home

I adore analogies and use them all the time. What is language, after all, but a kind of tapestry of analogy. So too are all stories analogies, in their way, just not usually particularly direct analogies. Analogies, I believe, don't lock down the understanding of things. They open them out and allow for wider and deeper ways of looking. But I accept that perhaps I use analogies too much of the time. For instance there is one particular analogy I love to use at the front desk of my library...

When patrons at my library are concerned about getting a replacement library card, and they fear that important information or requests on their library account will somehow get lost in the exchange, I use the house key analogy.

Here it is:

Your library card is like a key. Your library account is like a house. So when we change your library card (and your library card number) we are merely changing the key to your house, but your house and everything in it remains exactly the same.

I give this analogy with great gusto, and usually with quite a few more words than in the above, and I endorse it all with number of enthusiastic hand gestures. And while to me it is the clearest and most perfect analogy, I always seem to catch a glint of confused alarm in the eye of the person I am giving the analogy too. When I'm done talking and gesturing to the person it always looks as if they're about to ask a question, and then they think better of it. Then they sort of drift away.

Maybe I'm too enthusiastic about the analogy. Maybe analogies are terrible ways to communicate things. But I still believe.

Here is an analogy for clerkmanifesto:

Writing every day a short essay for clerkmanifesto is like laying a trail of breadcrumbs away from myself. And when I am done they show me the way home.

I think this is why birds show up here so much.


  1. This morning I unsubscribed to yet another good organization. I support what they stand for, though once in a while I will not sign a petition because I would need to understand the issue better before committing. Anyway, I have become inundated with these emails requesting signatures. I get at least 1-3/day. Once you sign one petition, many of the like-minded organizations end up saying hi in your in-box. I feel a bit of a twinge each time I unsubscribe but I have to for my own sanity. My morning is already taken up with a walk to the kitchen for my (already brewed! Thank God for technology, coffee), then a look at what's up with The Clerk M and work email and then outside to sit by the stone wall, where there has been incredible birdsong lately. So, the point is I was thinking of an analogy about the emails, how they are like the mole in "whack-a-mole"--remember that carnival game? But not quite because the moles aren't social and environmental issues. But similar in the sense that I have to get rid of them even though they keep popping out. But the point of an analogy is not to explain it, right? Like the key to the library thing, so I'll just stop. Sometimes, like a sudden wind in the desert, a comment will take a life of its down and crate tumbleweeds of sentences.

    1. Yes, I suppose the point of an analogy is that it explains, but one need not explain it. But analogies can get so exciting, and lead so many interesting places, that one sometimes finds oneself explaining an analogy or even coming up with another analogy to comment on the first analogy, and then someone else comments on one's analogy and there are tumbleweeds everywhere.

      I'm just saying analogies take a strong stomach, good workboots, and heavy denim jeans.

      I'm not sure what they do with all those signatures, but it sounds like they mostly use them to get more signatures.


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