The Sopranos, the Camino de Santiago, and How the World Hangs Together

Last night I watched episode 1 of the Sopranos, the mafia-family television series that became hugely popular at the turn of the century .

It was fun, funny, violent, and vulgar; and I liked it a lot.

I haven’t watched The Sopranos before, but it’s often cited as instgating “the television revolution”, wherein television began catching up to, and then surpassing films, as the “western world’s” primary audio-visual art form .

Given that it holds such a reputation among so many people I respect, I have decided to make watching the entire series of The Sopranos my goal for the winter.

When I finish it I will start on Twin Peaks.

Here’s the odd thing: phenomenologically speaking, I feel like I am at the start of a great journey. In other words , being where I am in The Sopranos (ready to start episode 2 of 86) induces a similar feeling in me as that of being at the beginning of a long adventure, like walking the Camino de Santiago, for example .

The Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in northwestern Spain, typically begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France and ends in Santiago de Compestela, Spain — some 770 kilometres away.

Pilgrims usually take just over a month to walk the route; Emilio Estevez made a cute little movie about the experience called The Way, in 2010.

One can’t be blamed for being incredulous that I would compare such a revered and spiritual trek to the watching of a television series. After all, one involves waking up and walking 25 kilometres daily, while the other involves finding a good butt-groove on the couch, preferably in close proximity to cheap carbohydrates.

And yet aspects of the analogy hold true:

As I watched Tony Soprano, the mobster protagonist of the show, become attached to a family of ducks that landed in his private swimming pool, I began looking forward to understanding him further. When you start watching a T.V. series, people and plotlines are all unrealized potential; you don’t know exactly what await you, but you know that you will become invested in the characters and their projects.

Similarly, when you start an epic quest, you are certain that adventures awaits you,

but the details of the adventure remains elusive; it’s all unrealized potential. Thus, watching a T.V. show and taking a spiritual pilgrimage through Spain appear to have something in common after all.

And that this is the value of a good metaphor — placing two seemingly unconnected entities beside each other and allowing the commonalities to bubble to the surface.

Thus, those who are skilled at wielding metaphors are those that notice how objects in the world overlap and resonate with each other.

Understanding how metaphors work allows one to understand how the world hangs together.

Maybe your English teacher was right after all.

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