Metaphorically Evolving

This post is part 3 of a series. Click for part 2 or part 1.

We are saturated by metaphor. From our language, to our thinking, to our core values, there is evidence of metaphors. In the last part of this series, we discussed how metaphor-based values are assigned priorities over one another. And lately, I’ve begun to wonder if we are in a priority reassigning revolution.

Do you know what a mid-life crisis is? I’m sure you do. But have you ever heard of a quarter-life crisis?

I graduated from college in 2013. I was 23 years old. That was when my own quarter-life crisis began. I didn’t know what to do with my life. I had desires and I had an idea of what was expected of me. But of course, they clashed.

At the time, I thought my inaction was due to my fear of the unknown laced with some kind of commitment phobia.

Beginning a career was a terrifying prospect–doing the same thing day in and day out for the rest of my life? Can’t that be found in the dictionary under “bone-chilling?” This was problematic.

To bring this back to the theme, let’s talk about a common metaphor: Time is money. We use it when we talk about “wasting our time,” “budgeting our time,” or asking someone how they “spend their time.” As far as priorities go, Time is money is one of the top time metaphors.

Or is it?

Embedded in this metaphor is the concept Time is valuable. I’ve had several discussions in the past few years that make me wonder if the priority we give these metaphors isn’t changing and if what we value is evolving. It seems that the lesson we want to teach children, that money isn’t everything, may finally be starting to stick. Is it possible that we are beginning to think Time is valuable, leaving out the material aspects of the metaphor, namely money?

How would this affect us? We use our time to gain wealth. But what if money was no object? What if we valued something more than money? How would you spend your time?

Time is money is a metaphor deeply entrenched in our culture and, therefore, in our personal values. To reassign its priority in our own psyche might take a lot of effort and it seems reasonable, that for a period, the two metaphors would clash and erupt in a mushroom cloud of cognitive dissonance? Is the quarter-life crisis a symptom of this conflict?

Recent graduates are about the age of full physical maturation, the brain included. This is the age people begin to truly think for themselves (or at least have the option to). Is it possible this is when metaphor priorities, the metaphors which determine our value system, get reassigned according to personal belief and experience?

“An era can be said to end when its basic illusions have been exhausted.”–Arthur Miller

Maybe we have exhausted the illusions within aspects of our culture and all that is left to do is revise our value system, which requires a rearrangement of our metaphor hierarchy.

I’m not saying that the Time is money metaphor will be disappearing anytime soon–I don’t think it can. But the frequency of quarter-life crises seems to be increasing, indicating that we are at some kind of tipping point…and I’m curious to see how the subconscious of society is going to change, how it is going to evolve.

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About Nathan Doneen

I'm currently a mid-20s post college grad trying to find my own niche in the world. I studied biology and environmental science when in school and have since started studying philosophy and theory of mind while trying to write in the midst of it all.

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