I stand high above the shore, looking out over the place where the waves ride their kamikaze trajectory into the cliffs that look down on them. Rocks mockingly break through the surface of the water, unable to feel their own eventual crumble, their slow transformation from undeniable presence to inevitable non-existence—particles smaller than small, floating through currents to everywhere.
I sit on a nearby picnic table and remember that in my bag I have packed The Manual of Universal Metaphor (and Other Figurative Languages). “If any situation requires metaphor, this should be it,” I think. I begin searching through the indexes and contents and looking for a list of metaphors for uncertainty and ambiguity. I read endlessly through a catalogue—lists of symbols alphabetized by meaning. I read lists filled with things I find cliché and overused—scarlet letters, pink ribbons, sunrises, sunsets, fog, rain, and transitions from winter to spring. I can still hear the waves as they pummel into the cliffs below.
As the sun begins to set on this cold, winter’s night, the air takes on a strange blue hue and the air hints at storms. Metaphor much?
And as the rain begins to drop the ocean back into itself, the ink runs down the pages of the intentionally-left-open Manual of Universal Metaphor (and Other Figurative Languages).
“Rain,” as explicated on page 378 in The Manual, “signifies rebirth, cleansing, and renewal. Rain can signify impurity or corruption, as is made evident from the subsequent creation of mud. Additionally, heavy rain accompanied by persistent thunder and lightening could signify confusion, as in a ship that lost its way due to a storm.” Somewhere, Saussure is laughing at me from some place that is a grave but not necessarily grave-like as there is nothing inherently grave-like about the grave for the word “grave” is only a signifier used to signify the thing we know as a “grave” which in a million other ways could be called ten million other things. Just like “rain.” It would still be wet. It would still mean the same.
The rain runs wet on the book’s pages. There is no renewal or rebirth, and even though there is quiet rumbling in the distance, there is no confusion. There is only a book on metaphor left out in the rain and opened to page 378 because I enjoy absurdity—the signified washes away its signifier.
I also enjoy honey-roasted peanuts during a hangover and black-and-white pictures; a familiar glance and a “good riddance” to what I’ve heard referred to as “emotional congestion.”
The world is a text not always to be interpreted: the colors and seasons, the way that the sun sets just so before a nighttime storm…