Our core assumptions about the how we see the world are embedded in the metaphors we use. More than just a sunny or crabby disposition, how we see the game of life set up colors our responses to everyday happenings. What is coincidence to one person is a personal assault to another.
I see six main ‘game boards’ that people use as metaphors for how things work for them. We really can’t judge how the world works for others, though many times we try too hard to put our own metaphors on others.
The six metaphors are;
1) The world as a battlefield
2) The world as classroom
3) The world as a trap
4) The world as a lover
5) The world as self
6) The world as a machine
The World as a Battlefield
Many people see the world as a battlefield, where good and evil are pitted against each other and the forces of light battle the forces of darkness. This ancient tradition goes back to ancient tribal civilizations. There is the sense that you are fighting God’s battle and that ultimately you will win. Some people call this kind of certainty and self-righteousness the ‘apartheid of good’.
It’s easy to see the ‘Battlefield” world in others. We all know the constant fighter for political and social injustice. When you ask them how they are doing; the answer is usually a triad on the latest assault on their own cause by the obvious evil-doer. Gays vs. the Religious Right is a great example. Many GLBT people make this a battle instead of a discussion. To quote my favorite politician, Barney Frank, “Most people aren’t homophobes, they just think they have to be.” Obviously Congressmen Frank does not see the world as a battlefield.
The World as a Classroom
A more innocuous version of the battlefield metaphor, is the image of the world as a classroom, a kind of moral gymnasium where you are put through certain tests which would prove your mettle and teach you certain lessons, so you can graduate to other arenas and rewards. Whether a battlefield or a classroom, the world is a proving ground with a grade at the ‘end’. The grade can be money, a family, a relationship, a great job, or being on the A-List.
We are taught, imprinted, guilted and molded from a very early age to poop, read, run, swim, and be popular. When we describe our lives to another in the elevator speech (the 20 second introduction) we usually use one of the ‘grades’ we have been given be it a good job, a great spouse, a sought after address, etc. Though not as toxic as the battlefield metaphor, the constant competition tends to wear on your value system when you realize there is no final exam at the end of your life. I’m sure you have never given this any thought but what will Paris Hilton do in 30 years when she has done it all?
The World as a Trap
Here the view is not to engage in struggle or vanquish the foe, but to disentangle ourselves and escape from this messy world. We try to extricate ourselves and ascend to a higher, moral high ground. If you venture out too far, you will get slapped. “All gay men are pigs, there is no one that wants a relationship, women are gold-diggers, religion is a crutch” are all terms the people who view the world as a trap use. They separate themselves, many times into disturbing isolation, to avoid being burned by the big bad world.
Some avoidance and insulation is necessary, especially for those of us living in an urban environment. It gives us a ‘time out’ to get things done, evaluate our actions, and give the love to others. Where the trap metaphor becomes a problem is when we see too much of the world as a trap, and not enough of it as the wonderful universe that it is.
The World as a Lover
The world as a lover is seen as a most intimate and gratifying partner. In religious texts we find some of the richest expressions of our erotic relationship with the world. Desire plays a creative, world-manifesting role; giving of oneself, subjecting your body, an erotic experience of body and soul. People who see the world as a lover are amazed at natural beauty, see good experiences as personal gifts, and create a personal relationship with the universe. This personal relationship can be stormy at times, like that with a lover, as our expectations and reality come together.
The World as Self
The world as lover is a complement to the world as self. The saying that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself is a manifestation of this worldview. What outsiders see as a selfish act can be in reality an exercise in making yourself better and thus the world itself. In “The Four Agreements”, by Dr. Manuel Ruiz, we are taught that we are to make no assumptions as to what others may think or do. They are living ‘their’ world and you are living yours. There is no line between the universe and yourself. You are part of an interconnected network of living things. Using the metaphor of the world as self is a progression finding the rhythm of peace.
The World as a Machine
In the seventeenth century, science claimed the domain of the physical world, religion claimed the domain of the mental world. Since then the explosion of public education, (remember that until 250 years ago, only priests and ministers were allowed to study science,
How much do you operate within each of these worldviews?
How do you see these worldviews being expressed in the world around you ?
Are each of these views equally valid?
What makes some more valid than others?
I didn’t want to get all Oprah on the blog this week, but Valentines Day brought up some discussions among friends and it seemed that each of them had a personal and unique metaphor for ‘seeing’ our universe.
Have a peaceful week