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  • Writer's pictureTracie Guy-Decker

Unmoored or UNLEASHED?

A friend recently recommended I read God is Here: Reimagining the Divine by Rabbi Toba Spitzer. It was a gift. Truly. Rabbi Spitzer provides beautiful, rich metaphors for the divine. Images that don’t chafe the way the God is a giant sky-man does. Things like God is water; God is fire; God is a whisper; God is a place; God is a cloud etc. I loved trying on the different metaphors with Rabbi Spitzer and testing how they feel with my experience of the divine. Even before those experiments, Rabbi Spitzer gave me this:

So is it true to say that God exists? I would say God exists like love exists, like time exists, like colors exist, like good and evil exist–because all of these are fundamental aspects of human experience. Some of these things, like time and color, can be investigated and represented in scientific terms. Others, like love or a sense of good and evil, can only be known through our experiences and our reasoning about it. They are all “true” in that they shape our daily lives and tell us important things about ourselves and the world we live in. Yet they are not entirely “out there.” They all involve some amount of interaction between our bodies and brains and the world around us. (p 15)

But the biggest gift that God is Here gave me was a footnote.

Rabbi Spitzer convincingly lays out the case that much of human understanding is based in

metaphor. She uses the work of James Geary to help her make the case. Geary’s I Is An Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes The Way We See The World has changed me. Seriously. In fourteen chapters that explore metaphor in different aspects of life–from finance to psychology, science to advertising–Geary peeled back the layers of how humans think and understand and how the everyday language we use changes everything.

The whole concept of this book is validating to me, since I have explicitly named that finding the right metaphor is one of my skill-sets. But the benefit is so much bigger. Metaphor is everywhere, much of it unexamined. And it shapes the way we think and therefore how we behave.

In his final chapter, Geary reports on a form of talk therapy that invites patients to investigate and make changes to the fundamental metaphors they use about their lives. He shares the story of one man who was pr

one to using work is war metaphors, e.g. “I have to defend my people,” “the troops are falling by the wayside,” “I can lose it in the heat of battle,” and “you must defend your territory to be on the winning side.” When the therapist asked “‘’when you must defend your territory to be on the winning side,’ what would you like to happen?’ This question breached the manager’s defenses. He hesitated, real emotion appearing for the first time on his face and in his voice. The man shook his head and, taking a first step toward retreat, said ‘Not to have to defend myself.’” The therapist then helped the patient work on an alternative metaphor, that of an orchestra. (p 219)

This chapter in particular made me think about metaphors I’ve been using about myself lately. For weeks (months?) I’ve been saying I feel unmoored, adrift. I’ve been using a life is a boat metaphor about myself. Following the method Geary outlines, I asked myself what happened right before I became unmoored. I saw myself in a little row boat, working furiously to keep the right amount of tension on many ropes holding me in one spot by the pier. And then the next question: what would you like to happen? “I am tired,” I said. I just want to lie down. And I saw myself lying in the bottom of my little boat, looking up at the stars. I lay there for a few moments feeling the boat gently rocking, hearing the water slap against the side, and in the quiet, I could hear a whisper. “I made them for you.” God said. Now that I was still and quiet I could hear the divine voice and see the beautiful stars I’d previously been too busy to notice.

And in that metaphorical vision, I suddenly realized, I was never unmoored. I was unleashed. I’d been working SO HARD to stay in one place. But that’s not what boats do! Boats are meant to move, and I can’t wait to see where this one takes me. I didn’t need to change my metaphor, I just needed to recast the state of things.

What metaphors are you using about your life? How are they serving you? Can you tweak them to give you greater hope or meaning or comfort? You already have what you need. The oars are in the boat. You just need to look for them.

Find my graphic novel-style depiction of this metaphor experience below...

Visual description: 6 uneven panels: Panel 1: For weeks (months?) I have been saying I felt unmoored…ADRIFT. (Drawing of a woman sitting in a rowboat viewed from behind.) Panel 2: I started examining the metaphor when I read an eye-opening book. It detailed a form of talk therapy that looks at patients’ metaphors (Drawing of a book, I Is An Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor by James Geary) Panel 3: The 1st step is to ask what happened _before_ the current metaphor. I imagined myself hustling through o keep all of the ropes at the right amount of tension to keep me in a single spot. (Drawing of the boat between two piers with 6 ropes attached. The woman is reaching for one of them from inside the boat.) Panel 4: Step 2: what do you want to happen? I was so tired I just wanted to lie down. (Drawing of the woman lying on her back in the bottom of the boat, with sunset in the distance) Panel 5: once I was still, I could see the stars. God whispered “I made this for you.” (Drawing of white stars and circles on a dark blue field). Panel 6: And suddenly I realized, I’m not unmoored, I’m UNLEASHED! I’m thinking of making a sail (Drawing of woman in the boat similar to panel 1, but closer and pointing forward and to the right).

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