Thursday, May 15, 2008

Looking for metaphors

One of the mysteries of being alive is the search for meaning. We have only to look around us to find metaphors everywhere, waiting to reveal messages to us about life. Of course, these messages come from inside us. They are our responses to what we see, and hence are subjective, but that’s beautiful in its own way—we can become our own teachers if we look closely enough at the world around us.


While in Galveston, TX, I was walking down a pier and began to photograph a number of seagulls flocking overhead. I didn’t see the actual moment of capture, but a fisherman cast his line and accidentally snagged a hook through a seagull’s wing. Both the bird and the fisherman quickly realized something was very wrong, and the bird was unable to maintain its flight. The gull began to dive and sputter. The fisherman reeled in the bird as it thrashed violently and became more entangled.

I wondered why the fisherman didn’t immediately cut the line, but then I realized that if he did so, the seagull would still have the hook embedded in its wing. Entangled in a large amount of line, it would probably perish later as a consequence. He had to bring the bird closer to free it.

The gull violently resisted being pulled in, first onto nearby rocks, and then at the feet of the fisherman. The gull screamed out, and tried to bite the man as he touched the bird. The bird continued to fight for an escape. I was conflicted as to whether I should watch this play out, but I wanted to see what would happen next. I was imagining the physical pain and fear the bird must be experiencing.

Then something strange happened: the bird stopped moving. It was almost as though it realized that there was no escape, and nothing that could be done, or perhaps knew it was being helped. It stopped struggling. I wondered if it was able to sense the man’s good intentions, or if it simply gave up. I have no idea. I want to believe it was the former.

The fisherman removed the hook from the wing and untangled the line from the feathers. Immediately, the bird leapt from his feet and into the air, rejoining the flock above.

I read this moment as a strong metaphor, a living representation of how life is a difficult fight, tinged by violence and struggle. But I also saw a means for finding our way out of our maze of anxiety.

The more we resist our negative feelings of grief, anger and fear, and the more we rely upon self-judgment and condemnation, the more entangled we become in our own drama. If we surrender to the things in life that are most difficult, if we allow ourselves to feel the feelings that we most want to run away from, if we acknowledge the truth of our situations and accept our life as it as, and accept and love who we are, we can find peace within the din and a moment of rest amidst the calamity.

Prison ceases to be a prison when we stop trying to escape. At that moment when we accept whatever it is that we are fighting against, when we finally surrender, only then is the door most likely to open and we can regain our freedom.

2 comments:

Catherine said...

Hey, thanks for sharing that thought. It's really beautiful and true.

Major Generalist said...

Thank you, Catherine. :)