When a metaphor turns into a reality that we all begin to believe in, the fantasies of our own making have become distorted and we need to begin the process of regaining the sanity once embraced but which is now lost in the surrealism of time’s warped viewpoint. It is by simile, analogy and metaphor that one gains a greater understanding of circumstances, fields and subjects, but it is also by such vehicles that we can misplace reality with a virtualized representation of a universe nonexistent.
Sermons abound with metaphors involving a “key” to this or that; or even of those positive thinkers and corporate motivational speakers who talk about the 10-steps to this or that, the “ultimate key to success”, and similar such drivel that makes one think and believe in the existence of a singular implement that needs to find that lost sliver of hope, insert it into the corrugated slit cut into the brass knob that stands between success or failure — and suddenly, the doors unlock, the entranceway is cleared and one can step into the future yet unanticipated by the fullness of contentment.
Do we really believe that there is such a key? How often do we speak in terms of a metaphor, a simile and an analogy, but over time our spoken words lose the clear distinction that the simile was meant to ascertain?
We begin with: “It is as if there is a key to the universe,” or, “It’s like having the keys to the universe.” Then, gradually, the “as if” and the “like” are dropped, quietly, unnoticed, like the short-cut that assured one of arriving earlier if only the right turn into the thick fields of the wild forest is taken with confidence: “I need the keys to the universe.”
No longer the metaphor, and certainly without the distinctiveness of the simile; the keys become the reality without the padded divide of recognizing that existence cannot be forced to appear in reality; our minds have tricked ourselves into believing. Then, we often come to realize that the metaphor which purported to “unlock” (a metaphor itself following upon another) whatever it is that we believed was previously inaccessible was nothing more than a mundane process or methodology that we could have figured out ourselves — sort of like (there we go again with a simile) the Master Burglar who spends hours trying to determine the combination to a safe that had all along been left open by a careless bank clerk.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the “keys to the universe” of obtaining an OPM Disability Retirement are quite simple and straightforward: Prove that the medical condition prevents you from performing one or more of the essential elements of your job.
However, as the devil remains in the details, the simplicity of the metaphorical “key” to a successful outcome is not dissimilar (a double-negative that turns out to mean “similar”, sort of “like” a simile) to most such Keys to the universe: a systematic, methodological compiling of proof combined with legal precedents to cite in presenting a compelling tale to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such that the “key” is effective enough to “unlock” an approval from them. Of course, as with all metaphors, the analogy is like the simile that refuses to be like other such metaphors, or so it is often said in the vicious circularity of language’s mysteries.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire