The Solution of my Problems

I read this in a book I’m currently studying for school and thought it was beautiful…

An Iranian student, shortly after his arrival in Berkeley, took a seminar on metaphor from one of us. Among the wondrous things that he found in Berkely was an expression that he heard over and over and understood as a beautifully sane metaphor. The expression was “the solution of my problems”–which he took to be a large volume of liquid, bubbling and smoking, containing all of your problems, either dissolved or in the form of precipitates, with catalysts constantly dissolving some problems (for the time being) and precipitating out others. He was terribly disillusioned to find that the residents of Berkeley had no such chemical metaphor in mind. And well he might be, for the chemical metaphor  is both beautiful and insightful. It gives us a view of problems as things that never disappear utterly and that cannot be solved once and for all. All of your problems are always present, only they may be dissolved and in solution, or they may be in solid form. The best you can hope for is to find a catalyst that will make one problem dissolve without making another one precipitate out. And since you do not have complete control over what goes into the solution, you are constantly finding old and new problems precipitating out and present problems dissolving, partly because of your efforts and partly despite anything you do.

The chemical metaphor gives us a new view of human problems. It is appropriate to the experience of finding that problems which we once thought were ‘solved’ turn up again and again. The chemical metaphor says that problems are not the kind of things that can be made to disappear forever. To treat them as things that can be ‘solved’ once and for all is pointless. To live by the chemical metaphor would be to accept it as a fact that no problem ever disappears forever. Rather than direct your energies toward solving your problems once and for all, you would direct your energies toward finding out what catalysts will dissolve your most pressing problems for the longest time without precipitating out worse ones. The reappearance of a problem is viewed as a natural occurrence rather than a failure on your part to find the ‘right way to solve it.’

To live by the chemical metaphor would mean that your problems have a different kind of reality for you. A temporary solution would be an accomplishment rather than a failure. Problems would be part of the natural order of things rather than disorders to be ‘cured.’ The way you would understand your everyday life and the way you would act in it would be different if you lived by the chemical metaphor.

–Metahpors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

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