All thought is metaphor

“All thought is metaphor. The map is not the territory. Every verbal map we make is metaphor, but existence is not words, it is not mathematical equations, the universe is much bigger and more complicated than any verbal map we can make of it. The map is not the territory. The words that describe the map are not the territory, are even further from the territory, so the map is a generalization that doesn’t fit any particular territory. What I perceive is not out there, it’s just what I perceive.” -Robert Anton Wilson

I like the analogy of map and territory in relation to thoughts and words being used to describe our existence and universe. Indeed, thoughts and words are merely tools that we all use to express and communicate our perception of the universe, and therefore they are like a map describing and representing the territory.

Like what the quote says, the map is not the territory, just as words are not the universe. No map can ever describe or representing the territory perfectly because the territory is much more detailed than what the map can show. There are also different kinds of maps to represent a territory, such as political maps, road maps, geology maps and so on. Each type of map tends to focus only on selected aspects of the territory, such as the main towns and cities in a country or the locations of rock types in a region.

Similarly, no words can fully describe the universe because the universe is so much more than what words can convey. There can be different types of literature to describe the universe, such as myths and allegories, scientific theories, poetry and prose, and so on. Each type of literature tends to focus only on selected aspects of the universe, such as the mystical or spiritual aspect of how the universe works, or the physical or natural laws of the universe (such as gravity).

So, I think that knowing the role of thoughts and words will help us realise that the reality or the existence is much more than what these tools of expression and communication can convey. The quote rightly pointed out that all thought is metaphor. Similarly, the bible itself, as well as all other writings, is a metaphor. These writings are not the absolute truth, but rather maps describing the territory, which are open to subjective interpretations and opinions.


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