The dreaded journey

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The metaphor of life as a journey is a very old one, with citations going back to the 1300s, although it seems to pick up in the 1600s. But really, you sense from the OED citations that it was used fitfully, with nothing like the passion and frequency that marks its use today. The editors of that august dictionary would have a wealth of material to sort through now that it has become a cliché to be encountered on a daily basis.

I wondered if they would also need to consider the added significance that the metaphor has now. In the past it merely visualised the plodding path of the weary pilgrim through life. Now it is accompanied often by the urgent message that this journey is the whole point of living, not the destination. It has the sense that we must work earnestly at achieving spiritual intensity at every step of the way. It is not enough to live a good life, a happy life, a rich and rewarding life. We must  live an emotionally and spiritually significant life, and we must share! There are endless opportunities for us to recount our journey to others, to analyse its meaning and dissect its uplifting possibilities.

The result of all this is that there are those of us, as a friend reminded me, who refuse to take part in a journey and shun the use of the metaphor. It is going to take a while for this figure of speech to sink back to a level of frequency where it is possible to use it again without wincing.

Sue ButlerComment