08 August 2008

of painting, parabolas, and blind inference

Are you ever living life (or watching it happen around you) and you think of what a great metaphor it is for something larger? Some folks used to teach this way. They saw a sheep fold and told us of how His Kingdom works. They saw a farmer sowing seed and used it to explain how our lives are sown and what the implications are of where we sow them. Preachers still live on this method. People at my church have heard more cycling stories (and related metaphors) than any other church in history. But it works. It paints the picture better than simple words.

I tell you stories of elevators and baby news and generally mundane life events and somehow there is something larger we can all take from it. These are parables, in a sense, related comparisons, story-telling devices.

I often run across things and wonder if there is an applicable parable in it. I ask myself, “Is that parabolic?” I used the term privately, since I was both unsure of its accuracy in that context and since I was probably the worst math student in the history of Robert E Lee high school (not to mention the fact that I flunked “Math for Artists” at UT before retaking the identical class with the same professor and managing a “D”, leaving me with a cumulative Mathematics GPA of 0.5).

Finally, I sought out the etymology of the words and found that parabola does indeed come from the same root (Greek parabole) or at least that “parabola” grew off the same branch of the tree that our modern “parable” eventually found itself.

Parabola - 1579, from Gk. parabole "parabola, application"

Parable - c.1325, "saying or story in which something is expressed in terms of something else," from O.Fr. parable, from L. parabola "comparison," from Gk. parabole "a comparison, parable," lit. "a throwing beside," from para- "alongside" + bole "a throwing, casting," related to ballein "to throw." Replaced O.E. bispell. In V.L. parabola took on the meaning "word," hence It. parlare, Fr. parler "to speak."

So, having blindly inferred your permission, I will now use the term “parabolic” more freely. I will encourage you to seek parabolic moments in life and to keep your eyes open for parabolic pictures as we all continue to live in these complicated parable-machines called lives.

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