Roberts (Poem of Purpose, 2010, etc.) offers an all-encompassing insight: the secret to understanding and dealing with life is through metaphor.
Metaphor underlies all life, Roberts says, approaching the figure of speech with an obsession that would put Capt. Ahab to shame. His philosophical excursion is a difficult journey, but a fruitful one. There are, he says, three categories of metaphor: the reflexive, the hylozoic, and the synthetic, all important to the “survival drive,” i.e., the urge to survive. A better life supposedly awaits those who properly understand and act on Roberts’ insights. Challenging chapters include “The Self’s Annihilation of Self” and “Dependency Metaphors and Self-Concept Consequences.” Elsewhere, a more accessible chapter, “Disorders of the Hungry Heart,” offers an apt metaphor for the touching study of eating disorders to discuss the idea of eating only “holy food.” Roberts, a retired academic and voracious researcher, has done his homework and then some: every contribution is documented. This complex, wide-ranging tome can be dense, but short, digestible paragraphs go a long way toward making the text reader-friendly. Roberts writes well, and some chapters even end with summaries, offering a respite for weary readers. But as to metaphor, Roberts simply stretches things too far: “…the path to independent living begins with the metaphor that is self-concept and with our recognition that self-concept is a structure built consciously or unconsciously by us, and for which we alone are responsible.” Even if he is correct in this self-admitted contrarian view, his efforts to ram through understanding may numb even the intelligent and committed reader. He appends two sections, “The Evolution of Metaphor” and “A Lexicon of Metaphor,” but by then, even intrepid readers might be overwhelmed.
A worthwhile read for the intellectually adventurous.