Has metaphor subtly steamrolled over societal norms? Metaphor has become such a part of everyday life that their unthinking utterance changes the course of dialogue, distorting meaning in the process. When Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” was it an embrace of absolute truth and shared perspective? She also asked, “What is the answer? In that case, what is the question?”


We wanted to dive deeper into the prevalence and paradox of metaphor, and MAS Context’s Couplings provided the perfect platform for discussion. 50,000feet was honored to be included as a speaker at the event, finding inspiration from and parallels with the other speakers who shared ideas and works relevant to their practices today. Couplings established a framework to make conceptual connections among thoughts, words and images against the backdrop of design today, where metaphor runs rampant.


Metaphor can be a powerful tool that shapes the way we think. In his brief presentation titled Metaphorically Speaking, Jim Misener of 50,000feet spoke on the relevance of metaphor in today’s cultural discourse and of the power it holds in shaping the way we live, see, feel, speak, learn and live. In his book I Is an Other, James Geary writes of the unique and ubiquitous form of speech: “Metaphor lives a secret life all around us. We utter about one metaphor for every ten to twenty-five words, or about six metaphors a minute.” Meanwhile, Steve Rathje argues that we don’t simply talk with metaphors—we think with them. Citing a range of references and studies, Rathje writes of the power and pervasiveness of metaphor and provides good reason for all of us to take note. In the words of Wallace Stevens: “Reality is a cliché from which we escape by metaphor.” Which begs the question: what is reality without metaphor?
Check out the full transcript of Jim’s talk here.