Can our relationship with the ground ground us? When is a metaphor the real thing?
When asked “What does it mean to be grounded?”, it won’t surprise the readers of Ground to Ground to hear people evoke images of the Earth, trees that are solid but flexible enough to sway in the wind (meaning that they are open, alive and not brittle and dead) and – of course – being planted with or feet firmly on the ground. The question was the subject of the first episode of QuOTeD – The Question of the Day Podcast. It is my new podcast that I have been describing as “an audio montage of on-the-spot answers to life’s big questions.”
When pressed to get away from the metaphor of “being grounded” (explaining a metaphor with more metaphors seemed a bit circular), one respondent “stood her ground”, arguing that the expression can also be taken literally. “This is why you garden! This is why you compost!” She said. According to her, our personal relationship with planet Earth tells us something about how we are living our lives. Here’s an excerpt from the podcast. Each letter represents a different speaker:
What does it mean to be grounded?
BB: They have their feet firmly on the ground.
II: You’re centered in yourself and on the ground on which you stand. I’m answering a metaphor with several metaphors.
BB: Who hasn’t had the experience of walking barefoot or standing in mud? I think that is actually a very literal experience of, you know, wanting to be on the ground.
DD: Down to earth.
BB: I think…You notice that some people are people that sit on chairs and other people are people that sit on the ground.
DD: Salt of the Earth, good folks.
BB: And we have people that have basements and people that live in high-rises and… In a very… really literal way, people’s relationship to the ground is in some ways both a metaphor and an actual functional expression of how they’re living.
This comes together nicely in the following:
LL: They’re stable.
AA: More stable, maybe.
RR: Emotionally stable.
FF: Like a tree and then that stabilizes you so that you can sway in the wind. But for me it means, then having the ability to… no matter what is going on around you, no matter who’s angry or who’s yelling or upset about something or trying to convince you of something, you have the ability then to stand with your feet planted on the ground and know your own truth.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have science back up our suspicions about the benefits of being close to the ground. Antidepressant Microbes in Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy explains how mood-improving serotonin is boosted by our direct contact with soil. The article closes with encouragement to “Get out and play in the dirt…” To this good advice, this month’s episode of QuOTeD adds (to name a few things):
RR: Going for a walk.
RR: Without talking on the phone
BB: Walking barefoot
RR: Walking in nature.
QQ: Get barefoot.
NN: Get out and walk. Get out and dance.
AA: Just keeping doing it. His big thing is just keep doing it. Just keep doing it.
You can listen to QuOTeD – The Question of the Day Podcast – “What does it mean to be grounded?” here: