"Red as blood, white as snow, black as a raven's wing…." These three colors appear again and again in folklore the world over, but why? What is it about this triad that exerts such power on our collective imaginations?
Responses to a recent tweet by Pete Buttigieg rightly called out the presidential candidate for his use of the phrase "American Heartland" as "code for white." The incident raises interesting linguistic questions about how we unpack complex cultural metaphors.
When my friend Carl McColman says that language is tricky, and that God is bigger than the limits of the human mind, we might imagine our words are just so many rigged-up rubber bands, paper clips and packing tape with which we are, MacGyver-style, trying to capture a wild and mighty wind.
Yet our words are our own breath given form by our body and its movements, and where else have we drawn that breath but from the winds themselves? Our speaking is a shaping of the wind within us, released back into the wild to work its way into someone else's body, moving with the ebb and flow of sound waves, pressing in against their eardrums, stirring the tiny hairs of their skin.
To talk about language this way is to break out of the metaphor of objects and containers, and to see words as experiences in themselves.