Convince me that that life is not struggle
May 30, 2014 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Metaphors are claimed to affect how we see the world and live our lives. In the case of someone brought up to believe that life is tough, reading on the topic hasn't helped a great deal. For example, Lakoff and Johnson's "Metaphors we live by" suggests that "life is a container" or "life is a gambling game". If you wanted to move on from believing that "life is struggle", what metaphor would you find useful?
posted by Prof Iterole to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
One of the best such metaphors I've ever heard was something tossed off by accident by a college friend; I don't know if i'ts something I live by, but it sure feels true sometimes:

"Life is like a menu - so many choices, so little money."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 PM on May 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

"Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty."

-- E.M. Forster, Howards End
posted by bertran at 9:25 PM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Life is like a box of chocolates.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:48 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Life is not a struggle. It's a wiggle." - Peter McWilliams
posted by teststrip at 10:05 PM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
So, um, it's not really a struggle if it's just Destiny playing with himself? Which reminds me,
As private parts to the gods are we: they play with us for their sport!
posted by XMLicious at 10:33 PM on May 30, 2014

Life is not a struggle. Struggle is an aspect of life.
posted by converge at 1:28 AM on May 31, 2014

Life is beautiful.
posted by htid at 2:31 AM on May 31, 2014

Life is a Journey.

So, in terms of a metaphor, I find a bunch of implications of that, useful:
It's about the journey, not the destination.
Travels, journeys, often have difficult bits - sometimes those bits make the best stories though. Even waiting 8 hours for a late train can be retroactively hilarious.
There will be detours, changes of plans, and you might get stuck, but the goal is generally to keep moving.
I've found people tend to be kind to travellers, and I try to be kind in return.
A focus on experiences, rather than things.
posted by Elysum at 3:24 AM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Life is a smorgasbord.

Life is a game. (I think it's a game of hide and seek mixed with tag, played at dusk with a number of players who don't know who is it and sometimes think it's them, and don't all think the same location is base. There is a lot of nervous giggling going on and some team work.)

Life is duty. Seriously. It is. There is nothing more important you could be doing than fulfilling your duty to others, to your children, to your community, to people you don't know.

Life is a gift. Seriously. Every damn breath is a gift, an incredible, wonderful gift. If you don't believe me see what you think during an asthma attack or if you have COPD.

Life is not meant to be taken seriously.

Life is meaningless. You may think you find purposes or things that make sense but it's all just fractal patterns. It's a kaleidoscope that is turning and the patterns you think you have finally worked out are going to slide into different positions and different relationships and the whole structure you were planning on building on has just fallen apart... but you know what? It's still beautiful. It's not about controlling it or hanging onto it, or making it stay the same or go the way you want it to. It's just about appreciating the ephemera.

Life is a compulsion. I do it whether or not I really want to. Can't seem to give it up, somehow. Every morning it's the same thing, I find myself up and doing and looking after things.

Life is appallingly beautiful. The things that are the worst, that are beyond unbearable are also the most beautiful parts of it. I was reading about the Hochelaga School Fire yesterday and it hurt - all those kindergarten kids... but it wouldn't have hurt if all kindergarten kids weren't inexpressible precious. The pain only comes from the fact that they're essential. And you know what? They would have all grown up and been dead now, if they had survived. They would have become mediocre adults, had kids of their own and died... but that doesn't make it less of a tragedy, just that inevitable that rivetingly beautiful things will spring up and fade, over and over again.

Life is a spectator sport. If you're tangled up chasing the football you're doing it wrong. Sit back, watch, admire, take some vicarious pride, groan at the defeats and let it go.

Life is a jig-saw puzzle. Or possibly a logic puzzle. (I think it's the one about how you need to cross a river with a job, a leaky loud baby and a novel that means more to you than life itself.)

Life is the school of eternity.

Life is a cosmonaut journey in orbit around the planet. You're 63 miles away from the nearest person. You think you're in contact with other people but they are just voices and can't really help you. You aren't going anywhere. There is something faintly heroic about what you are doing.

Life is the process of trying to define and explain what you are doing so as to be reassured that you are doing it right. Like this post.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:42 AM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Life isn't a metaphor.
posted by flabdablet at 5:48 AM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Saw this on Twitter the other day: Life is like an RPG, but it's actually a JRPG because you have to spend all your time doing busywork, and at the end of it you have to fight God.
posted by jbickers at 7:54 AM on May 31, 2014

"For the same uprush of fancy which had shown him with all the force of mathematical demonstration that life had no meaning, brought with it another idea; and that was why Cronshaw, he imagined, had given him the Persian rug. As the weaver elaborated his pattern for no end but the pleasure of his aesthetic sense, so might a man live his life, or if one was forced to believe that his actions were outside his choosing, so might a man look at his life, that it made a pattern. There was as little need to do this as there was use. It was merely something he did for his own pleasure. Out of the manifold events of his life, his deeds, his feelings, his thoughts, he might make a design, regular, elaborate, complicated, or beautiful; and though it might be no more than an illusion that he had the power of selection, though it might be no more than a fantastic legerdemain in which appearances were interwoven with moonbeams, that did not matter: it seemed, and so to him it was. In the vast warp of life (a river arising from no spring and flowing endlessly to no sea), with the background to his fancies that there was no meaning and that nothing was important, a man might get a personal satisfaction in selecting the various strands that worked out the pattern. There was one pattern, the most obvious, perfect, and beautiful, in which a man was born, grew to manhood, married, produced children, toiled for his bread, and died; but there were others, intricate and wonderful, in which happiness did not enter and in which success was not attempted; and in them might be discovered a more troubling grace. Some lives, and Hayward's was among them, the blind indifference of chance cut off while the design was still imperfect; and then the solace was comfortable that it did not matter; other lives, such as Cronshaw's, offered a pattern which was difficult to follow, the point of view had to be shifted and old standards had to be altered before one could understand that such a life was its own justification. Philip thought that in throwing over the desire for happiness he was casting aside the last of his illusions. His life had seemed horrible when it was measured by its happiness, but now he seemed to gather strength as he realised that it might be measured by something else. Happiness mattered as little as pain. They came in, both of them, as all the other details of his life came in, to the elaboration of the design. He seemed for an instant to stand above the accidents of his existence, and he felt that they could not affect him again as they had done before. Whatever happened to him now would be one more motive to add to the complexity of the pattern, and when the end approached he would rejoice in its completion. It would be a work of art, and it would be none the less beautiful because he alone knew of its existence, and with his death it would at once cease to be.

Philip was happy."

-from Of Human Bondage
posted by quincunx at 11:00 AM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like this one, from the short story "Passengers, Remain Calm," in Dan Chaon's collection Among the Missing:

What if you believed that everything in life was like a prize? What if you thought of the world as a big random drawing, and you were always winning things, the world offering them up with a big grin, like an emcee's. ... What if you could think that life was this free vacation you'd won, and you won just because you happened to be alive?
posted by Corvid at 3:08 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Life is exploration and discovery. It's your one brief chance to find out everything you can about Earth, the universe, other living things, and what it feels like to be a human being. You get to experience joy, anger, embarrassment, boredom, music, sex, homework, vacuuming, what lilacs smell like, what peaches taste like, how it feels to jump into a cold pond on a hot day. No matter how long you live and how much you do, there will always be more to learn and discover.
posted by Redstart at 3:09 PM on May 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Life is just a bowl of all-bran, you wake up in the morning and it's there."

Small Faces - "Happy Days Toytown" from the delightful album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake.

Flippant reply to your serious question, I admit, but levity and play and cute, happy songs sure do help mitigate the tough. I wish Stanley Unwin lived in my house, and spoke Gobbledygook to me every time I got home from a hard day. Is there an app for that?
posted by valetta at 7:21 PM on May 31, 2014

I think life is like a sandbox game where you can just try things and see what happens. I think there are no absolute right or wrong answers, just better or worse mental models in terms of how accurately they predict the outcome. So choice A gives you outcome A1 and choice B gives you outcome B1 (etc) and the really complicated, interesting stuff is the part where you try to predict in your head what that means before it happens so you are making some kind of informed choice. And if the results are not what you expected, you can choose to learn from it and try again and see if you did any better in predicting the actual result and thus making choices in line with what you would like to experience.

Life is a sandbox game. Play and learn.
posted by Michele in California at 3:41 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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