The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(minor metaphysical quagmires...)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

Liminal's Revenge rating=2

File under: Other Places

For some reason, I keep thinking of a family vacation we took to New England when I was young, maybe four, barely old enough to remember anything. I barely do remember anything from that trip, except the googly eyes of a whole cooked lobster, a mountain that had been carved by wind and rain into the face of a man, and, near our hotel, a gigantic statue of Paul Bunyan.

Paul Bunyan, that famous giant lumberjack, marched across America’s wilderness with each foot in a different state. But me, I’m not having such an easy time straddling two states at once. I have to make a choice that will change my life and I can't decide. My brain can't break out of the loop; I'm stuck between the two places—past and future? nostalgia and daydreaming? Is that alight at the end of the tunnel?I'm stuck between chugging along with my life, as is—familiar and not entirely unsatisfying—or jumping tracks, starting something fairly new, mostly unfamiliar and not entirely un-frightening.

I am neither here nor there.

I don't know what I want to do.

I'm not very comfortable not knowing.

Paul Bunyan, legend has it, once set his raft down in a round river. He thought he was sailing downstream, but just sailed round and round and round. The scenery looked familiar because it was exactly the same. Finally realizing he was going in circles, he heaved his axe and split the river open, changing its course forever.

I guess what I'm saying is, if the scenery looks familiar, how do I know I'm not stuck in a round river?

Or, to put it all another way—I can't remember ever having been happy. And if that's the case, how can I be expected to make any decision in my own best interest?

Paul B

P.S. It's the Metaphor, Stupid

I've just read a bit by "cognitive linguist" George Lakoff, who says that, contrary to the belief held since the Enlightenment, we don't necessarily act in our own best interest. Rather, we seize on metaphors we feel represent our belief system, and try to fit our actions to that belief system – even when a particular action goes against our self-interest. (Lakoff cites the "red state" blue collar worker who votes for political candidates certain to make the man less well off.)

The round river metaphor might not be working for me.

Mr. Lakoff, incidentally, looks like a well-read Paul Bunyan.

More on Mr. Lakoff later...