Metaphor and the Sacred

April 14, 2016


My answer to a question at the Vancouver Writer's Festival Incite reading with Yann Martel at the Vancouver Public Library a couple of weeks ago. "For me the natural world is where I go to find the sacred, and that feeling that something is sacred is important in my life. I think that a religious sensibility is hard-wired into us, I don't think we have a choice, even if we're atheists, there is a part of our consciousness that transcends our day to day reality. And what religion and literature have so profoundly in common, and what both Yann's and my new novel really expand on, is thinking metaphorically about life and meaning because religion, at its best, gives us some of the most profound metaphors for what the meaning of our lives are and literature, at its best, does exactly the same thing."

Metaphor is how we deepen our sense of connection to the world around us and deepen our sense of the meaning in our lives. Metaphor is how we approach the sacred in life - you cannot look upon the face of God directly, only the reflection. You cannot know the explicit meaning of a work of literature, you can only feel it take shape inside you, and inhabit the air around. There is nothing literal about the meaning to be found in religion or literature, though both can spur you to good action. 

Writing, at its best, is like building a cathedral in the old days when the mason and the stone carver worked day in, day out, knowing that the completion of their work might shoot past their own lifespan, knowing they were dedicating their lives to creating a space for mystery, and that that mystery was in turn infusing their consciousness and their time on earth with meaning and with an ineffable feeling of connection. 


Metaphor - path to the sacred in literature and religion