Friday, 9 April 2010

What's Up? - Andrew Strong

I stop listening sometimes, and can hear only metaphors. Let me explain. Last weekend I went to party, it lasted three days, and I hardly slept. I wanted to talk to friends I hadn’t seen in months; I wouldn’t see them again for a long time, so I wanted to make the most of it. But as my ageing brain began to tire, I stopped listening to what people were saying, and heard only how they were saying it.

We started talking about keeping our dreams alive, not giving up, that how, whatever life throws at us, we battle on.

A friend from Yorkshire likes to say "what’s going off?"; friends from further south would say "what’s going on?" In the north, life is more explosive. In the south, things are more stable. Perhaps.

Language is laden with metaphor; it is impossible to write a sentence without one or two, however bland, creeping in. (eg ’laden’ ’creeping in’).

There are metaphors of direction - up, down, forward, backward etc: "things are looking up"; "don’t let it get you down".

And metaphors of inside and outside: "in love" "out of control".

Metaphors of journeys: "I don’t know where my life is going..." "we’ve come a long way together"; "you’ve lost your way".

I like the way technology influences metaphor. We 'grasp' something when we understand it, suggesting, perhaps, that hands and brain work closely together most of the time. Someone who can think quickly is sharp, someone with a quick wit is cutting.

During the industrial revolution, when machines replaced people, people became machines: the heart is a pump; the lungs are bellows; the kidneys as a filter; the skeleton is scaffolding.

And since the advent of the home pc, when computers are blessed with memory, brains are compared to computers. The internet has potentially given us another metaphor, the connected world as a brain, an electronic Gaia theory.

If we can imagine new technologies, we can imagine new metaphors and then, perhaps, revolutionise the way we think.

So I will propose a new technology: a thought filter... like a simple meditative tool, it knocks away thoughts, and we can adjust it to allow in just very positive thoughts, or, when we want to be sad, we can set it to sad mode.

I imagine these devices, circular, in any colour you like, placed on the nape of the neck. The controller fits on your wrist like a watch. Apple will be making them within five years, I guarantee it.

Once the thought filter exists, and is available everywhere, then it will surely give rise to new metaphors.

"You need to set your thought filter to one..." (concentrate)

"You should turn up your thought filter..." (wake up, take more notice of what’s going on)

"Lower the me mode on your thought filter..."

And so on.


OfficeGirl said...

I could use one of those. I would set mine to (You're awesome, no matter what they say).... =)

Elen Caldecott said...

I went to a lecture recently where the lecturer called words 'a semi-autonomous virtual machine made of information'. I thought that was an amazing metaphor and imagined thousands of tiny virtual machines floating in the air as he spoke.

Rosalind Adam said...

You thought up all this while you were at a party with friends you hadn't seen for months... Gosh! Metaphors do need to keep up with modern day life. Old metaphors are clichés and we all know how forbidden they are... as forbidden as fruit and that's the oldest simile there is.

Andrew Strong said...

Well...I didn't think this up at the party... although "what's going off?" did catch me off my guard. And I love a word as 'a semi-autonomous virtual machine made of information' - makes me wonder that the book could be similarly redefined to wake the world up to the gorgeous thing that it is!

Lucy Coats said...

Thank you, Andrew--this post has certainly woken up a train of thought in me which I thought had stalled on the tracks.