Boat Stories

I have just had an article published over on the Theopolis site. Within it, I discuss the significance of the boat as a metaphor for the Church and other things.

As a conceptual metaphor and model, the boat and its attendant stories can helpfully frame many different phenomena. As it frames these phenomena, accenting key features, it may enable us to see familiar things in a new way, perhaps even facilitating moments of epiphany. While Rao uses the boat and its stories as a model to explore such things as the medium of blogging, making various insightful observations in the process, the model itself offers an illuminating paradigm for a host of realities beyond this.

As Rao observes, the boat is an unusual place. It is a fragile realm of order and community immediately bounded by a realm of chaos and disorder. The boat and its crew can venture forth on a great heroic quest, punctuated by forays into the unknown and/or dangerous realm beyond the boat itself. However, in doing so they share the evolving quotidian life of a community and its non-heroic relationships. Build your stories around a boat, and you can more easily fuse elements of soap opera with elements of the heroic epic. The imaginative appeal of boat stories—from Moby Dick, to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, to Star Trek, to Titanic—is often found in the possibilities that the form affords for bringing together narrative approaches that are often detached from each other.

Conceptual models and root metaphors are powerful things. As they frame reality for us in distinctive ways, they offer us paradigms for being, thought, and action. The root metaphor of the boat is an especially powerful root metaphor, framing reality in a way that foregrounds a particularly powerful conjunction of features. The boat is a fragile micro-environment moving within a potentially dangerous and occasionally hostile larger environment. It is exposed to the threats of chaos, death, and the unknown, but is typically driven by a specific quest. The world of the boat itself can sometimes be akin to a terrarium—a tightly enclosed environment that functions as a self-contained social ecosystem. For the boat to fulfil its quest, it is necessary for those on board to recognize their extreme interdependence, to resolve conflicts swiftly, and to cooperate effectively.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Genesis, Guest Post, John, Jonah, Luke, Mark, Matthew, NT, NT Theology, OT, OT Theology, The Church, Theological, Theopolis. Bookmark the permalink.

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