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Ten Metaphors for Life from "Leaves of Gold"

Updated on June 12, 2018
MsDora profile image

MsDora, seven-year online writer, shares poetry, creative writing, quotes and reflections on how writing and writers influence our lives.

Have you ever tried to summarize your view of life? Chances are that you may repeat a popular metaphor (such as life is a game, a journey, a dance, a battle) and that’s all right. The idea is not to be original but to be specific about what life means to you; and it is possible for several people to share the same view. Taking the time to figure it out will help you respond effectively to your circumstances.

For example, if you look at life as a game you may realize that losing one inning (in relationships, business, academic pursuits etc.) does not prevent you from winning another. You may see life as a ball game, a board game, an arcade game or other. Instead of throwing temper tantrums when you lose one session, you will nourish your body and spirit in preparation for the next. You will accept second chances, become more productive and more effective.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta ([1910-1997] Nobel Peace Prize 1979)
Saint Teresa of Calcutta ([1910-1997] Nobel Peace Prize 1979) | Source

Following are ten metaphors for life. They are extracted from Leaves of Gold (1938 edition) which contains “maxims, phrases, anecdotes, passages, proverbs and essays from the best minds among men” as it states in the book’s foreword. Life is not one of its 32 sub-topics, but metaphors, opinions and suggestions about life are included throughout the book. These selected metaphors share the thoughts of wise authors, and can inspire your subscription to, or the creation of, one or more of your own.


(1) Cafeteria

Life is a cafeteria. There are no waiters to bring success to you. Help yourself. – Public Speakers Library

(2) Chess

Bobby Fischer ([1943-2008], American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion)
Bobby Fischer ([1943-2008], American chess grandmaster and the eleventh World Chess Champion) | Source

In life, as in chess, one’s own pawns blocks one’s way. A man’s very wealth, ease, leisure, children, books which should help him to win, more often checkmate him. – Charles Buxton ([1823-1871], English writer and member of Parliament)

(3) Dome

Life, like a dome of many-colored glass, stains the white radiance of eternity. - Percy Bysshe Shelley ([1792-1822], English Romantic poet)

(4) Employer

For Life is just an employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.

- Jessie B. Rittenhouse ([1869-1948], literary critic, poet)

(5) Hunt

Life would be a perpetual flea hunt if a man were obliged to run down all the innuendoes, inveracities, insinuations and misrepresentations which are uttered against him. - *Henry Ward Beecher ([1813-1887], clergyman and social reformer)

(6) Lane

Life is like a beautiful and winding lane: on either side bright flowers, beautiful butterflies, and tempting fruits. . . But by degrees, as we advance, the trees grow bleak, the flowers and butterflies fail, the fruits disappear, and we find that we have arrived—to reach a desert waste. – George Augustus Henry Sala ([1828-1895], author and journalist)

(7) Music

Music is Life Wallpaper
Music is Life Wallpaper | Source

Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule. - Samuel Butler ([1835-1902], English author)

(8) Road

Human life is much like road life. You stand on a hill, and look down . . . and another prodigious hill lifts itself upon the other side. . . You find the valley pleasant and inspiring. When you get across it, you meet only a slight ascent, and begin to wonder where the steep hill is which you saw . . . Step by step you find it to be a good traveling road. – *Henry Ward Beecher

(9) War

Life, like war, is a series of mistakes, and he is not the best who makes the fewest mistakes . . . but he is the best who wins the most splendid victories by the retrieval of mistakes. – Frederick William Robertson ([1816-1853], British clergyman)

(10) Web

Life is a web, time is a shuttle, and man is a weaver. . . Of that web, two things are true: that which enters therein will reappear, and nothing will reappear which was not put therein. – J. H. Newman ([1801-1890], poet and theologian)

Do you have a personal metaphor for life?

See results

Why Choose a Personal Metaphor for Life?

"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person," states Anais Nin ([1903-1977] American writer).

  • Choosing our personal metaphor boosts our sense of individuality.
  • The Research Digest (October 21, 2015) adds that thinking in metaphors enables greater insight into our emotions.
  • It helps us explain ourselves to others.
  • Prior to explaining, it helps us understand ourselves as in the following example:

A teenage girl accepted the assignment to find her personal metaphor. She concluded that life for her was like an apple in a small basket, not in a large bin. She explained that at the grocery store, she had seen apples in a large bin selling "two or three" for a certain price; but that above them in a small basket, the price of the apples was "for each." She choose a metaphor that emphasized her individual worth. Consequently, her attitude and behavior changed drastically for the better.

Metaphors for life are effective in influencing both children and adults. Choose from one listed on this page, or create your own and add positive meaning to your life.

© 2018 Dora Weithers

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    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Mona, I'm proud of your for taking the challenge. Your life's metaphor will influence your attitude.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 weeks ago from Philippines

      The idea of creating a metaphor for one's life is challenging. I don't really dwell enough on my life, and I am most grateful to you, Ms. Dora, for this article. I will be back once I figure out my own metaphor, and enter it here. Wish me luck!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Natalie. I appreciate your encouragement.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      7 weeks ago from Chicago, IL

      This is the third time I've read this article. I really enjoy what you have to say and the metaphors are very uplifting.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Natalie. Your explanation of that metaphor is right on. We reap only if we sow.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      2 months ago from Chicago, IL

      These are very powerful metaphors. I like the one about the web. We only get out of something what we put in. If we put nothing in we get nothing back. Thanks for a stimulating article.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Margie. We do inspire each other here on HP; you've done your share. Let's both keep on writing.

    • Margie Lynn profile image

      Margie's Southern Kitchen 

      3 months ago from the USA

      Dora, love all the beauty you always bring into my day! I always receive a blessing from your wonderful articles, keep writing! Have a wonderful day!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Patricia, thanks as always for the angels you send; and thanks for sharing your beautiful attitude towards life.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 months ago from sunny Florida

      Thought provoking Ms. Dora. Life is a precious gift...learning to embrace every minute of every day on this grand walk brings us so much fulfillment. thank you for sharing....Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Devika. It helps to take the time and figure out what life means to us. We see ourselves better and our way clearer.

    • profile image

      DDE 

      3 months ago

      Hi, you have shared a meaningful hub! Makes me wonder too about life as you have written.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Nell, thanks for your contribution. Both are about attitude, and our battles really are lost or won in the mind.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 months ago from England

      Not so much a methaphor, but I do tend to quote, 'Being English is a state of mind not a bloodline' on most of my articles elsewhere! lol! but personal ones seem to be more, 'even if you hate someone, keep smiling it keeps them off guard!' LOL!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Frank, thanks for the footprint. I do not remember learning about life as an employer until this article and it makes sense to me too. I've asked for a raise.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Ann, thanks for sharing. I like your metaphor. It includes our entire being, which means we are fully alive.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 months ago from Shelton

      These were very good I like life is like an employer the most.. really never thought of it that way but it fits...:) just had to come back to check it out again... so excuse the foot prints

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 months ago from SW England

      Very inspiring, Dora. I like these ideas and the idea of choosing one's own metaphor is appealing.

      For me, 'Life is the world through a child's eyes; fresh, inviting knowledge and giving us the wonder to put up with any setbacks.'

      I think I could improve on that but for the moment, that'll do!

      Thanks for giving us plenty to think about, Dora.

      Ann

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Jackie. You are right. Your metaphor may change, or you may have more than one at a time. It's a good idea to think it through.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Dora, always giving so much food for thought. I will now have to find my metaphor! I think maybe it can change through life and be nothing now as it may have been in my youth. Possibly it is good to not have chosen yet without a thorough search. I think it would have to be something quiet and settled, mellowed.

      Thank you friend, for all your wonderful ideas that are so pleasing to the mind and soul.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Denise. I like your metaphor and I can relate to the change very well. So many different puzzles!

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      4 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have a tough time with change so I wrote the following: Life is like a puzzle. We work very hard getting all of the pieces in the right places only to find that when we do, the picture has changed!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 months ago from Shelton

      No problem MsDora, I did enjoy them..:) bless you

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Frank. Glad you like the metaphors. I appreciate your input.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 months ago from Shelton

      Love this hub.. love the metaphors... I think Carlin's is good too.." I think I am amazing, so therefore I am..I think.." Great share MsDora

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Shauna. Your modus operandi is very noble. It would be easy for you if you choose to find a metaphor.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 months ago from Central Florida

      This is a very interesting article, Dora. I've never thought of assigning a metaphor to my life or how I conduct myself. I try to be fair (do unto others as you'd have others do unto you), take a good look at myself and actions when I stumble, take steps to correct the diversion, and always be true to myself.

      You've given me something to think about.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Audrey, no wonder the music metaphor appealed to you. Vocal music is certainly your passion.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Linda. You will enjoy finding a metaphor for your life. It's worth the time and effort.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Metaphors cause me to stop and think about my own life. You've listed some good ones. I like the "Music" metaphor and will memorize this. Thanks Dora. Well done.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The quotes are very interesting, Dora. You've inspired me to think of a metaphor for my life.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Sean, thanks for sharing your metaphor. Already I can see how it directs your writing.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Manatita. There are so many life metaphors in your poetry, you possible have several personal ones.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Mary. Have fun finding your personal metaphor. Both music and road are interesting, or some other concept might emerge more fitting.

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 

      4 months ago from Greece, Almyros

      My metaphor (Greek word by the way) is:

      Life is a baby you have to help it grow up with Love and joy. As a baby, it will trouble you a lot sometimes, but no trouble compares with the magic you can find in this effort!

      Always wise and helpful!

      Thank you, My dear Sister.

      Sean

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 months ago from london

      A rather reflective piece to invoke much thought. Some nice metaphors and wise or witty sayings.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love the idea of having a personal metaphor. I am now trying to focus on what is mine. I love the metaphor of music and road above.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Marlene. I know that story personally. Metaphors work for me too.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      4 months ago from USA

      It all makes a lot of sense. I like the story about the teenage girl. You have inspired me to start thinking of a life metaphor for myself.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, thanks for reading. Don't forget to get well!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      4 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      There you go again, Dora - making me think. Some wonderful thoughts here I'll have to consider more closely. Thank you!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you, Chitrangada. I agree that we make like simple or difficult. For example, life as a game can be either or.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Bill. Life is a ride--one heck of a ride. Good one!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Flourish. Life is a dance is among my favorite life metaphors. Changing the choreography to fit the circumstances could be challenging but I like the adventure.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Jill. Your observation is acceptable, and Sala may not be alone in his view.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Tim. I like your metaphor. Thanks for sharing. As a writer I can easily relate to it.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Great article, great quotes, and it made me think.

      I think life can be simple, if we think and behave so, but can be complex and difficult, if we make it so, by our thoughts and actions.

      Always a pleasure to read your articles, full of wisdom.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Beautiful and all applicable; however you describe it, it is one heck of a ride!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 months ago from USA

      Looking at Jill’s comment, I’d have to agree with her on Sala’s mental health. I’m reminded of the country song that compares life to a dance, “Life’s a dance you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow....”

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      4 months ago from United States

      These were interesting to read! P.S. I think Sala might have been clinically depressed!

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      4 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Ms. Dora. I love these quotes. I've always felt life is like a bunch of blank papers and I'm a pen that writes a story, poem, or some other work as I go along. Of course, God is the author of the pages that will be my book once the final chapter is done. Thanks again for a well written and fun article.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

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