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Mine Your Mind III: Broken Symbolism

AKA "Analogy Breakdown Method".

In High-school I couldn’t believe my English teacher when she said that everything in the book “Of Mice and Men” was symbolic. Be it the color of a shirt, or a mouse in the big guys pocket, everything it seemed could be extrapolated on to create a deeper message.

We students could always find spots in the story where the symbolism would have to be pushed too far and she would admit “well the analogy kind of breaks down there”.

That's a pot of gold.

Analogy breakdown is normally an automatic "discard" moment. But, there is a benefit to it when you are attempting to come up with new creative ideas (which we are in this series).

Here is how broken symbolism can dig deep in your brain and invent something new for any industry or problem:

1. Start with the area you need a fresh idea in… I will choose three examples:




2. Find a seemingly unrelated topic as a source of symbolism.

Music will be represented by the sky

Paintings will be symbolized by animals

Food will be symbolized by mountains

3. Find a symbolic connection.

Music notes are different wavelengths of light

Paint colors are the personalities of different animals

Food's spicy sensations are hot lava volcanoes

4. Expand the symbolic relationships so you can see an expansive metaphor.

Music is sky: The more colorful the sky, the greater the complexity of the melody. Lightning is crashing cymbals and drums. Rain is the strings, wind is the woodwinds, storms are the brass... intensity of weather is volume and intensity of music...

Paint is animals: Aggression is red, creepyness is black, tranquility is blue etc. Bands of color represents a mixture of multiple things (alligators are normally tranquil, occasionally violent). The texture of the paint has to do with diet. Long strokes are veggies, blobs are meat, dots are bugs, oozes are fruits etc. Geometric shapes represent the complexity of the skeleton and on and on.

Food is Mountains: Size of mountain is the deliciousness of the meal, multiple peaks are multiple courses. Mountain ranges are feasts. More snow is more salt. Trees about the bases are garnishments. Rivers are sauces. Granite is crunchier, limestone is not, muddy earth would be generally runny. A lake is a soup. More animals... more meat, fewer animals, more vegetarian options.

5. Keep drilling down. Flip back and forth between symbolizing one or the other. Remain faithful to the nature of the metaphor until you find that sacred void that demands invention.

Music is Sky:

Q: What is snow?


Q: What is a telescope?

A: A microphone.

Q: What is a shooting star?


Q: What is an airplane?


Paint is Animals:

Q: What is a paintbrush?

A: DNA related to coloring of the animals.

Q: What is a canvas?

A: Animal skeletons maybe. They come in different sizes and are generally white.

Q: What is barking in the painting world?


Q: What is “euthanizing” a pet in the painting world?


Food is Mountains:

Q: What are alpine flowers?

A: The sophisticated flavors of a well spiced course.

Q: What is the meaning of the lava of a volcano in Mexico?

A: Jalapeño spice.

Q: Lava in india? Japan?


Q: What are fields? Cities?

Q: What is an airplane?

Q: Music?

6. Weed out weak ideas until you find something valuable:

You can actually have a funeral for a painting. Would you be surprised if Salvador Dali had already done this?

Imagine that each of the crazy ideas below had a really cool youtube video about the project, and imagine how creative you might think the inventor of the idea is.


A painting that builds up paint in layers until you have a mechanical object powered by flowing paint.

A photorealistic painting that used the movement of moths attracted to lights to disperse tempura powder on a table.

A painting using infrared reactive dyes so that only mosquitos and mantis shrimp can enjoy it.


A potato salad Popsicle. Don’t knock it till you try it!

Oatmeal Sushi (I tried this and it wasn’t very good).

Chicken strips in the shape of darts dropped into the mouth from a ladder.


A song played in an underground cavern on stalactites.

A song that remixes the songs of whales and that is listened to while paralyzed.

A orchestra of tesla coils.

A song played by a chain reaction machine.

It takes a little practice, but soon fresh and inspiring ideas never before seen on TED, Pinterist, or Dig will be flowing from your mind.

Here is the next question... Will you ever actually make these ideas into reality?

Interested in giving a yes? Read this:

Making your dreams into reality.

        About this site:   

My site has three closely related focuses.


  • First: I aim to share my kinetic sculptures, and the process by which they are created.


  • Second: Maybe you are someone who suspects that you haven’t reached your greatest creative potential. This site will change that.


  • Third: I will give voice to the deep connection with God we experience as we echo His fundamental identity… Creator.



 UPCOMING Projects: 


Living Glass Plumage


Maple Zoetrope


Monarch Tower


Wind up fruit

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