We are ONE : Metaphorical Processing (1/4)

I was thinking about writing down my understanding of “why we are all one?” The more I thought about it, the more I thought it is going to be one hell of a long article. So I decided to break it up into parts, starting today with Metaphorical processing.

Metaphors are conceptual associations that map information from a familiar source domain onto a less familiar target domain. Consider the phrase “to walk all over someone”. It creates the image of a person walking (trampling) over someone laying on the ground. Metaphorically, it means to show someone no respect. In understanding of the concept of “walk”, and how the act of literally “walking all over someone” happens, coupled with the worldly cultural knowledge, we arrive at the real semantic meaning of the metaphor. This is evidence that conceptual knowledge is applied to new experiences to form new physical-to-mental scaffolding, as the imagination tries to mentally simulate the metaphoric phrase in an attempt to understand it.

Mental simulation involves the recruitment of the same neural networks in the motor systems engaged during the execution of the action. The brain encodes the concept of any action by recording it as a pattern of neural network activations. This encoding encompasses the interaction with the environment, during which the act was committed, which is also grounded to the interactions with the people and the culture. Humans can imagine the performance of an action without actually executing it. Our ability to understand metaphors comes from our ability of mental simulation. This ability allows us to capture patterns of activation in sensory-motor systems and in systems that represents introspection (e.g. Emotions, cognitive operation) allows us the ability to communicate through languages, and the use of metaphors.

This tendency to encode information causes us to constantly attach meanings and values to every experience. As a result, every sensation cues the processing of both the physical sensation, as well as the conceptual processing. For example, physical hardness produces the perceptions of “strictness”, “rigidity”, and “stability”, even when the touch experience is passive in nature. Another example would be the concept of hardness is metaphorically associated with the properties of being hard. As a result, producing metaphors such as “he is my rock”, “hard hearted”, “rock solid”, and “tough as nails”, to name just a few. These experiences have been proven to affect our judgments and decision-making capabilities in a few research studies.

Metaphorical processing is part of the human experience. It gives each of our lives the meaning we are here to experience. It is also the very process by which affords us the unique experience of each of our lives, even though we maybe of the same culture, but who is to say each of us has the same exact culture? The definition of a culture is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization, or group.

However, due to the interaction between different groups of people, homogenization (standardization), or in most cases polarization (assimilation), of cultural practices can result. Interaction between different cultures causes one culture to borrow elements from each other to incorporate into their own meaning system, resulting in hybridization of cultures. As such, many hybrid cultures can exist within the same ethnic group or organization, thus further raising the complexity of trying to define the culture of any one group of people. This further explains why different people can have different experiences even though they may be perceiving the same event. It also answers why some gurus have said that each of our experiences of enlightenment will be unique. This probably also provides an answer to the questions of why everyone’s life journeys are unique on its own; and why any attempts to walk the exact same path which had been walked before in hopes of attaining the same results almost always end in obtaining differing results.


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