What Metaphor Should We Use For Our Present Crisis?

I don’t usual title my posts with a question.

I read an article a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about a question that it raises.

Eight Tips for Framing COVID-19


I agree with the thesis of the article – the stories we tell and the words we use to tell them shape the way that we think about and experience our reality.

In other words, how we “frame” something is important to consider.

Early in the article, the author Ella Saltmarshe suggests that when we talk about and frame the current moment of crisis we should:

Craft messages that evoke care, agency, the common good, solidarity and interdependence, NOT messages that evoke fear, division, passivity, fatalism and individualism

Saltmarshe then gives eight different frames we should consider.

The one I find most provocative is the fifth one: Pick Metaphors With Care.

Here she links to a quite robust COVID-19 Framing Guide. There’s also a link to another piece about metaphors in this time period.

She includes this chart, which I screenshot and paste below:

I’m not going to comment here on the metaphors. My goal with this post is to invite you to listen for the metaphors being used in our culture.

Once you notice them, you may want to use the list above as well as the supplemental resources at the additional links to consider which metaphors are helpful and moving us collectively in a positive direction.

And to critique metaphors which are pushing us toward greater individualism and/or an unhelpful hostility.

One final, related (sort of) thought. While there are many popular songs that use metaphors, here’s a song by Seal which reflects on how we interact with this important literary device:

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