There is a beautiful scene in Michael Radford's Italian film, Il Postino, which gently sums up the way in which metaphors appear all around us. The film revolves around the relationship between Mario Ruoppolo, a fictional character, and the exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Mario is a simple postman, who is very much in awe of Neruda and keen to learn more about his poetry and politics.
In this particular scene the two are sitting together in conversation, looking out to sea. Neruda creates some lines of poetry that describe the sea. In response to hearing his words, Mario inadvertently hits upon his own metaphor:
Mario: I felt like a boat tossing around on those words.
Neruda: Like a boat tossing around on my words?
Do you know what you've just done, Mario - you've invented a metaphor.
Neruda: Yes, you really have.
Mario: But it doesn't count because I didn't mean to.
Neruda: Meaning to isn't important - images arise spontaneously.
Mario: You mean that, for example ... the whole world with the sea, the sky, with the rain, the cloud ... the whole world is a metaphor for something else?
Exactly so, Mario. The whole world is a metaphor for something else. And metaphors do just arise spontaneously.
And when we are asked Clean questions of the metaphors that naturally arise for us, we are often given an almost magical way of getting to know ourselves better.