In “The Hero’s Journey,” Joseph Campbell describes his experience on a radio show when he began to understand that some people do not know what a metaphor is.

The radio show host began, “A myth is a lie.” To which Campbell said, “No, a myth is a metaphor.” Campbell said to the man, “Give me an example of a metaphor.” The man said back, “No, you tell me what a metaphor is.” At this point, Campbell said that he could play hard and fast, too. He said, “No, now I’m asking the questions: tell me what a metaphor is.” Well, the man fell apart, apparently on the floor at one point because he could not define a metaphor. Campbell felt horrible for embarrassing the man on his own show.

However, the man was able to collect himself with one or two minutes to go in the live show, and said, “Ok let me try to describe a metaphor…so-and-so runs really fast. So-and-so runs like a deer.” Campbell said, “No that’s not the metaphor.” To fill in the silence, he continued “The metaphor is so-and-so is a deer.” The radio host responded, “Well, that’s a lie.”

A myth is a metaphor, according to Joseph Campbell. He said those people who think their religious myths are facts are called theists, and those people who think religious myths are lies call themselves atheists. God is a myth; God is a metaphor, Campbell said. God is a metaphor for all of those things that are in between what we can make sense of in the world.


All the world’s a metaphor

And all the men and women storytellers

They have their comedies and their tragedies

And one person in his/her time plays in many histories as well

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