The problem

May.26. 2017

The problem with using metaphors to teach deep concepts is that shallow people will invariably start to take them literally.

Suppose you want to teach the concept of giving.

So you make up this fictitious character who will embody the concept of giving.

(There was actually a St Nick back in medieval times but you can rest assured he bore no resemblance to the guy we know as St Nick.)

Now imagine that some people actually start to believe in this character.

They get so inspired that they start to build a cult around him with an elaborate system of rituals and dogmas.

As their numbers grow, the cult gain general acceptance and is now known as a “religion.”

And maybe along the way, one of their so-called guardians of their laws (known also as theologians) decide that his famous white beard is 5 inches long.

And so everyone starts to grow 5 inch long beards and they start to persecute men who do not have beards.

Nothing wrong of course in all this child play (if it’s all innocent).

Except that the original message of giving is now lost.

Now it’s all about following elaborate rules and rituals and arguing about how many reindeers were hauling his sled instead of being more charitable.

That’s the problem with metaphors.

Some people actually take them literally.


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