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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't Fight the Slide


We are creatures of metaphor, I believe, driven to understand our lives not just literally, but also figuratively.

We are surrounded by metaphors, drowning in them, such that we may no longer even recognize them as metaphors:

We fight wars on poverty and cancer.
We phone it in, and jump the shark.
We hold our cards close to our chest, and keep a poker face.
We can’t catch a break or get a handle on our finances.

And then there’s: Don’t fight the slide.  As with all figurative speech, this one is derived from a literal experience.

Last Friday, after lunch with a friend in Evanston, we left the restaurant to find the sidewalks ice-covered; they were so slick it was far safer to slide our feet along than lift and step normally. 

Which is how, once we parted, I made my way for several blocks, taking mincing baby steps, trying just to stay upright.  I did pretty well, except for the crosswalks, which are slightly tilted downward and into the streets—and oncoming traffic.  They presented more of a problem, but I finally decided it was better to go with gravity and slide forward than resist and go crashing to the ground.

At some point, each time I came to a crosswalk, I started saying to myself, mantra-like, “Don’t fight the slide,” believing that to do so would certainly land me on my keister. 

It worked.  All those crosswalks with their slight dips into the street became navigable once I gave into the inevitable.  To wit:  I am sliding this way; to deny or fight it will cause more problems than it will solve.

I mentioned this to the young cashier at Trader Joe’s, which I’d managed to get to without falling.  I told him to be careful outside, how dangerous and slippery the sidewalks were, and that it would be best not to fight the slide.

As he finished bagging my groceries, and handed me my receipt, he said that right back to me, making it sound a bit like the Vulcan salute, Live Long and Prosper. 

Don’t fight the slide. 

I knew then that a fine metaphor had been born, one that could be used for lots of literal occasions--like, for instance, aging--where we humbly bow to the inevitable and are better off for having done so.

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