Monday, June 25, 2012

Your Metaphor Quotient

by Kim Van Sickler

At seventy years old and with 135 dances, five Hollywood movies, and four Broadway shows under her tutu, Twyla Tharp still gets up at 5:30 am every day for a two-hour workout before breakfast. She's an acclaimed choreographer who is admired for her creative juxtapositions of movement. Combine jazz, ballet and boxing together to create a dance? Wonderful! Let's do it! Twyla Tharp's practical guide: The Creative Habit. Learn it and use it for life, is chock full of ideas and suggestions on how we can unleash our inner artist (whatever form that artistry takes), train it, and become the best that we can be. Here is one of the many exercises she challenges us with.

Your Metaphor Quotient
How we derive meaning from one thing and apply it something else is an essential part of human intelligence. Without symbols, and without the ability to understand them, there would be no writing, no numbers, no drama, no art. Everything we create is a representation of something else. So, everything we create is enriched by metaphor.

Here are seven exercises to make you focus on the metaphor all around you and might even change the way you think.

1. How many images and objects can you see in three minutes of cloud gazing. (Metaphor as visual translation.)

2. During a mindless chore, become the rhythm of the process. What's the rhythm of scrub, wash and rinse? Hum the rhythm. Give it a name. What other mindless chores have a matching rhythm? (Metaphor as object or task.)

3. Distill a mechanical sound and mimic it. How about the click-click of a blinking turn signal? Lock the tempo and beat within you, then mimic it when you speak. Hear it when other people speak. See how the world moves to that beat. (Metaphor as aural and visual stimulus.)

4. Focus on a superstition like knocking on wood to bring yourself luck or breaking a mirror. What image springs to mind? Follow your thoughts wherever they lead. (Metaphor as faith.)

5. Study a word's linguistic roots. For example, the word tragedy derives from the Greek "trages", which means goat. In ancient times, goats were used as sacrifices to the gods. The story goes that some goats ate the grape leaves in a vineyard of the gods, offending the deities. Eventually the Greeks stopped sacrificing valuable goats to appease the gods and created rituals and plays to perform for them instead. Heroes replaced goats and were killed symbolically. These plays were known as tragedies, after the goats. (Metaphor as theater.)

6. Find two works of art you can connect. What is the connection? Was it intended? You can take what others have done, but by putting the works together in new and interesting ways, you create something new. Picasso created paper collages, and thirty years later Matisse created his late-period paper cutouts. (Metaphor as curating.)

7. Try to see another person in your image. Reverse it and try to see yourself in that person's image. Imagine your life if you had that person's wealth or looks or taste or biases. Imagine if that person had yours. (Metaphor as empathy.)

Here's something else. How well do you know the Muses? The daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who ruled the classical arts?
Calliope: Epic poetry
Clio: History
Erato: Love poetry and lyric poetry
Euterpe: Music
Melpomene: Tragedy
Polyhymnia: Sacred song
Terpsichore: Dance and choral song
Thalia: Comedy
Urania: Astronomy

Can you see some metaphor as theater here by studying these linguistic roots?

12 comments:

  1. Super post! If you don't mind I'll link to this today.

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    1. Link away! Too funny that we're both writing about metaphors today!

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  2. I loved this post...I am doing at least one every day!

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  3. What a cool idea. I've done a few of them.

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    1. Stina, she's full of creative ideas. You can probably tell I get pumped up reading them.

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  4. Great post Kim. Getting up at 5:30 every day to do two hours of workout, wow! that's dedication. As for the Muses I've got dibs on Melpomene and Thalia I need to see if I can get them to work together on a piece I'm working on.

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    1. Comedy and tragedy. A delicate balancing act. I've seen you do it before.

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  5. This is certainly a thought stimulating post. Thanks for the great ideas.

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    1. Ann, she is full of them. What an inspiration!

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  6. THIS IS AMAZING--wow! And what a nice recap of the muses (had forgotten). Off to click on that book.

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    1. You know, I don't know that I could have recited all of the muses before. Sacred song? Choral song? I lumped them all together.

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