Seven Veils of the Onion
By John D. Casnig
The onion is an illuminating bulb. But only by peeling its many layers, can one reveal whether it has a sweet heart or a rotten core. Suspense: thy metaphor is onion!
The onion is used metaphorically to
describe sequentially removable layers that
conceal an important something. That is, when we use a metaphor involving
an onion - such as "peeling away another layer" - we
visualize a central concept (a heart or core) that is buried
beneath an organized series of increasingly central issues or arguments.
inward in understanding from surface issues to deeper truths.
When we "get to the bottom" of something - finding its "root"
or "kernel" of truth - we are finally exposing that which is
most shielded from view. This differs from "opening one's eyes" or
"letting some fresh air in", in that the onion offers a series
of seemingly valid mistruths, rather than a singular misconception.
This also differs from a "higher truth" in that each step in a
does not totally invalidate the prior;
rather, it reveals that it was simply incomplete.
The difference in metaphorical tone between a "shell",
and its singular breakable encapsulation, and "onion"
and its many concentric strippable encapsulations, is one of simple
fortification versus duplicity. Compare the "just under the surface"
nature of a hidden truth behind such metaphors as "blanket",
"cover", "veneer" or "shield"
with the intrigue offered by the many layers of an onion, each layer a wee bit
"closer to the truth". There is far more suspense to the Dance
of the Seven Veils than there is to a towel falling off.
The onion is commonly used as both a metaphor and
a simile, with little - if any - difference in the example it sets. It is
emptied of its strong flavor, medicinal value or tear-causing reputation and
used as an exclusively geometric form.
Unlike many fruity metaphors, the onion is not used as
if bearing a central nutrition or seed of life under a simple,
necessary level of protection, but rather as a series of false cores, the end of
which is likely to offer a truth that is often not so palatable. While the
then, describes the progression, rather than the destination;
requiring a separate tone to distinguish the nature or value of the destination
itself. It is a road - a choppy road to an uncertain, secluded
destination. Whether a journey along this road results in good news or in bad
news, it always results in truth, however dicey.
The onion is the stripper of metaphors -
layer upon layer of mystique with no certain end. The truth is, it is the
journey to the core that makes the tease.
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