Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Metaphor: the Sock Drawer of Life

With so many things in your life to keep track of if you are to get at the chores you wish to engage, you see considerable value in metaphor as the equivalent of a file folder.  Now that you think about it, you're willing to venture a metaphor you'd only this moment brought to mind.  Metaphor is the sock drawer of life.

With that as background, let the record show your awareness of how your memory of having an actual drawer in which your socks and underwear were kept goes back to about age eight or nine.  During those years, there was nothing metaphoric about your sock drawer; it was a place where your freshly laundered socks and underwear were kept at the ready after they had been laundered.  

The presence of your sock and underwear drawer was monitored by your mother who, you recall at one time, suggested your sock and underwear drawer was not a practical place to store your comic books and library books.  Years later, in fact, within this most recent century, you thought to portray a character as a young boy who, as an example of his authenticity, was discouraged by his mother from storing comic books in his sock drawer.  

You remember this fictional mother of your own invention telling this fictional boy, "Things go in appropriate places."  You also remember the boy thinking, Things may need to go in appropriate places now, but as a grown-up, he'd put things where he felt they belonged, because how were grown-ups ever to understand what real order was about unless they'd had experience as young persons, putting things where they wanted them to go.

From about age twenty, when the washing, folding, and arranging of socks and underwear had been well established as your entire responsibility, the sock drawer with increasing regularity became a metaphor, by which you mean that you'd begun to accept the Cosmic behavior that can be described either as missing socks or unmatched pairs of socks.

For a time, your solution was to limit the color of socks to gray, but even then, however infrequent your inventory, the number of socks present at any one time was an odd number.  No matter that you'd switched to gray Byford cotton socks.  You were somehow losing the occasional single sock or in some mysterious way, one gray sock found its way into the Bermuda Triangle of socks.

At this stage of your life, you've advanced to a stage of not wearing socks most days, using them only when you are dressing toward some greater formality.  By your reckoning, you've only worn socks twice this year.  You've also graduated from the combination sock and underwear drawer to separate drawers for each item.  You're more conscious of underwear coming and going, either losing elasticity in the waistband or the wearing through from use.  Nothing mysterious about disappearing underwear.

In the drawer below, the sock drawer, the old magical realism persists.  The last time you were consulting your stash of socks, you were attempting to coordinate the color of socks with the shirt you'd chosen to wear.  Sure enough, you could find one sock in that hue, but not a pair.  You told yourself with some severity that this was the ideal time for an inventory, where socks with the merest hint of wearing out at the heel or single socks of a particular color or pattern would be dispatched,

Metaphor helps you visualize the relationship you'd discovered between two things you'd thought were unlinked, provides an excellent emotional Post-it note, urges you to see the potential for anticipation and inference.  

One of the first times a metaphor stuck in your mind as a glorious braid of originality, immediate conveyance of a feeling (in this case apprehension), and a personalized rather than generic sense of accuracy came from the American humorist Will Rogers.  "As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs."

For the longest time, that observation held the lonely spot at the tip of the pyramid of human awareness.  You knew with certainty how such a cat would feel.  When you put that in tandem with the observation that the more regional an observation was, the more universal the observation became, you were on your way to feeling you had some way of accessing the totality of the human condition, whether it was a sock-wearing culture or not.

You also understand through your admiration of certain fantasy novels and tales of magical realism how it can transpire that, were you to count the number of socks in your sock drawer now, you would arrive at an odd number.

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