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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

In Other Words: Bubble or Incubator? The Power of Metaphor

Image: Jessica Ruscello
How we tell or frame a story is important.

The way we frame a story reveals how we view ourselves and what we believe. Think about that. When we first meet someone we exchange stories which is usually our name, occupation, and geographic location. That frames the way a person will view us.

The way we see the world determines the way we behave in the world. Think on that a second. Our actions and reactions can often be traced to a metaphor of how we see the world and our place in it. Is it a jungle out there? Is it a garden? Is it a battlefield? Is it a game? What is the metaphor you use to define the world?

When I first moved to Fort Thomas over three decades ago and began teaching here, residents told me that the town was “a bubble.” That term was always uttered with a sneer or with contempt.  It was a comment on a perceived insular nature of the community. But the problem with bubbles is that they burst.

Image: Braedon McLeod

And the longer I lived and worked in the community, the more I could not accept that metaphor. I see the city more as an incubator where lives are enriched, stimulated, cultivated, and encouraged and then are sent out to change the world in ways big and small.  The protective bubble theory doesn’t support the Peace Corps volunteers scattered around the globe or the Teach America instructors working in impoverished areas in the country or officers serving in the military or those working in government intelligence agencies or doing great scientific research or working in international business and banking or the social workers or government leaders or artists whose images or music are experienced widely. They carry the lessons learned here with them. One remarkable father told me a story a few years ago that he did not want to give the world to his kids but he wanted to give his kids to the world. That is not a protective bubble; that’s an incubator. That is also the nature of our schools and churches and community organizations.

Everyone has seen those slow motion videos of a breeze lifting the seeds of flowers and spreading them beyond their base sometimes many miles from “home.” The seeds land, take root, and bring their beauty to a new place. We have literally seen this in all of our gardens. I have a beautiful cherry tree that blew in on the wind took root and now shades a good portion of the side yard.

I always ask graduates if the community trained them well for college, for business, for the military, for life. The inevitable answer is yes. We cultivate. We inspire. We train. We create opportunities for success. We have created the right incubator conditions to grow success. That’s a metaphor I can believe.

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