Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thinking in metaphors

Yesterday, as I was waiting for a traffic light to change near a freeway intersection, a huge truck slowly came down an exit ramp with a trailer full of flattened and crushed automobiles.

The thought occurred to me: there goes the U.S. automobile industry, maybe the whole world’s automobile industry. Smashed flat by a perfect storm of devastating forces – bloated gasoline prices, poor design choices, frozen credit, unmanaged labor and other costs, changing consumer tastes and a global economy in the tank

I was thinking in metaphors. My mind was ready for any symbol, any sign, any clue that would help me understand the fix we are all in. I saw a load of junk and it became in my mind the industry that had created it.

It was a bummer of a thought, and it stuck with me for a while. Then a ray of optimism crept in.

Those flattened cars were going to a processing plant somewhere to be further broken down into reusable basic materials, then recycled and made into something new. What had been at first a depressing thought became a positive one. It was EOL (end of life) for cars, and BONL (beginning of new life) for the materials in them.

Then another figure of speech came to mind, a simile: those cars are like all of us – people in my town and my state and my country who have been flattened and crushed by the global economic storm, but who are reinventing and rebooting themselves into something new.

President Obama said it in his inaugural address: It’s time for us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get moving again. We are not worthless junk to be thrown away. We are valuable raw material with new possibilities and new purposes.

It’s time to reinvent.