Metaphors, Mental Models, and Myths

Another important of Peter Senge’s disciplines is mental models.  The way we think about things is that we create mental models of reality.  These mental models allow us to think about complex things is a simpler way.  Einstein was a master at thinking about very complex things using very simple mental models. 

A really important aid to thinking about complex things is to use metaphors.  The use of metaphors is very helpful in helping understand complex subjects.  In both cases we must remember that our models and metaphors are not reality even though it is tempting.

Now let me talk about myths.  In the history of man, we have created myths to explain the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.   Carl Jung did a study of mythology  and found that all cultures have similar myths and stories.  I just read a book called "Pagan Christ" and it discusses how similar the New testament stories of Christ’s life to many previous "pagan myths."  I think we are all searching for the meaning of life.  The wisdom of the ages is really important in advancing our understanding.  One thing that Teilhard de Chardin  put forward was the idea that the appearance of Christ at the time he did was to provide a broader vision beyond a tribal religion.  The reason it was needed was that the Roman empire was across many cultures so a new vision of the meaning of all things was needed.  Not sure about that, but these myths and metaphors are really important for our understanding of complex things. (see )

So we need to develop our ability to develop metaphors to explain complex things.  We must also always realize that our mental models are only approximations of the way things are.  Remember to keep an open mind to new possible metaphors, myths and mental models.  They are great learning tools.

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