Frozen MIMES – an Introduction to Limnosophy

Frozen MIMES

Frozen MIMES

An Introduction to Limnosophy

By Paul M. Sheldon, M.A.

Marin County, California, 2005

The ancient tradition of using water-based metaphors can help thaw our language, our thinking, and perhaps even our experience of the world. This use of water-based metaphors is known as “limnosophy“—the wisdom pool (from the ancient, Indo-European root words “limni“—”pool” and “Sophia“—”Wisdom”). Those who drink from this traditional wisdom are known as “limnosophers.”

Recognizing the metaphoric confluence of water, consciousness and habitat, limnosophers appreciate the traditional respect for clear, pure, flowing water, by using water-based metaphors. Similarly, limnosophers appreciate the intact forest soils and bedrock that cleanse and cradle the water of the streams that flow into pools and clear mountain lakes, as well as the streams, rivers, floodplains, forests, prairies, deserts, marshes, swamps, wetlands, groundwater, lagoons, seas, and ocean, all of which bring the fog, mists, clouds, snow and rain which complete the life cycle of pools and lakes.

Let’s face it. Like frozen mimes, many Americans have been stuck since Nixon left office, paddling along with obsolete language, obsolete ideals, and obsolete solutions to the same old problems. Liberalism is obsolete. Environmentalism is obsolete. Vision leaked out long ago. “Compassionate conservatism” whatever that means, is the rule of the day. Meanwhile racism, unfair discrimination, prejudice, poverty, extinction, pollution and a host of other ills sit atop our cultural watersheds like massive, frozen glaciers. What will it take to thaw these frozen patterns of thought and action? Let’s start with the glacial metaphors:



Military, industrial, mechanical, engineering, and sports metaphors, while useful for “getting the job done,” keep us frozen in obsolete ways of speaking, listening, thinking, experiencing, and acting.

Downstream from these frozen, traditional metaphors, we can also express nearly all wisdom metaphorically, by referring to pools, lakes, tributaries, streams, or other aspects of water.

How To Use Limnosophy
Consider the metaphors used in everyday speech. Let the frozen MIMES sink below the surface and allow water-based, life-giving metaphors to bubble up. It’s that simple. Then carefully notice: do the MIMES seem frozen? When water-based metaphors emerge, does sustenance begin to seep back into the language, thoughts, feelings, actions, deeds, relationships and organizations that fill daily life?

The Tradition of Limnosophy
At the edge of natural bodies of water, many people recognize the fluid aspects of human concerns. Human settlements traditionally occur along the shores of oceans and lakes, beside pools, and along the banks of rivers. Basic human sustenance depends on clean pure water. Commerce between neighboring cultures flows along rivers and around the edges of large bodies of water.

Beneath much of what we call “dry land,” groundwater, water tables, aquifers, and underground rivers provide sustaining water of life. Most such underground pools are ancient, vastly preceding human habitation.

Just as water settles naturally into puddles, pools and lakes, so also the flow of individual, corporate, commercial, social, and cultural development tends to settle into metaphoric descriptions and ritualized patterns of activity and rest. These metaphors, some of them ancient, give shape, meaning and purpose to stories of the past, patterns of activity in the present, and dreams, prophecies, and plans for the future.

This tendency toward settlement brings confluence of conscious experiences with unconscious or semi-conscious experiences and preferences. Most people move toward limnosophical settlement intuitively, by following hunches, “gut sense,” or feelings, even when these are later justified, proven, explained or confirmed rationally or scientifically.

As we begin to remember our kinship with pools and lakes, our bodies, lives, relationships, families, businesses, institutions, and cultures may also begin to thaw from frozen MIMES into more fluid forms, with tributaries, outflows, and sediment deposits, supporting a diverse community of interrelated life forms, all essential to the whole.

Examples of Limnosophical Metaphors

cash flow

cashfrozen assets

boiling point

steamed up

simmer down

solving problems

finding solutions





streaming video and audio

“we all live downstream”

swimming against the current

going with the flow

ocean of wisdom

More Life-Affirming Alternatives to Frozen MIMES









parents, children and family

dreaming and waking