We depend on metaphors. In metaphors we find mediations between things and ideas. We can take this way back, all the way to the cave. Or Nietzsche is a good place to start. We find that images or sounds must be abstracted to form concepts. We lose something. But we gain metaphors and the opening of connotational space where transformation happens.1 This is a shout out, with beat and rhythm. A small offering meant to channel current away from abstractions and toward moving sounds and images.

We say we live in a network among gatherings of people, ideas, and things, but always this saying emerges from a metaphor—the web, the wetlands, the wheelbarrow, colored with feelings like passion or white petals unfolding as paper flowers on dogwood boughs.

Or we take metaphors forward to wranglings with the materiality of language. Think of those formal readers2 who zoomed in once on metaphors, irony, symbols, and words. They saw the slippage between ideas and things but still felt the language of transportation, of metaphors performing meaning. The tree. The green tree. The map. The road. The bird. The bee. Composing. The boom sound. The word and the world.3

  1. "We believe that we know something about things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things" (Nietzsche 82-83). Metaphors are foundational and allow us to speak of models like networks or webs to represent culture. They allow us to "[pile] up an infinitely complicated dome of concepts upon an unstable foundation, and, as it were, on running water. Of course, in order to be supported by such a foundation, [our] construction must be like one constructed of spiders' webs: delicate enough to be carried along by the waves, strong enough not to be blown apart by every wind" (85). back

  2. New Critical conceptions of metaphors as vehicles evoke a process of transportation. And thinking about metaphors and words reveals coemergence akin to what we find in models of knowledge and culture with "terms continually modifying each other" and translations and mediations of meaning that are "always indirect" since "paradoxes spring [from poetic] language" and create transportations through connotational space (Brooks). We now know that all language, even the scientific, bubbles with such connotational springs. The point here is to conduct meaning through the material of words, helping us move beyond print/non-print binaries to an understanding of words as moving substance like sound, or light, or water. back

  3. At stake with metaphors is the self, the social, and the material world. Sarah Kofman, examining Nietzsche, explains that, when creating

    the artist . . . must first have been metamorphosed and stripped of his [sic] individuality himself. He must have identified himself with the human race, with the very being of nature. In this state the artist expresses himself in unity with the whole. . . . The artist becomes a metaphor for the world and, as such, he is a medium which reflects eternal being. All authentic art involves intoxication, and with it the loss of the "proper" as one is transported out of oneself in a way which alone gives the power to symbolize. (12) back