Metaphors aren’t true
But they're useful.
That's why professionals use them to teach, to learn and to understand.
A metaphor takes what we know and uses it as a lever to understand something else. And the only way we can do that is by starting with the true thing and then twisting it into a new thing, a thing we'll be able to also understand.
(Of course, a metaphor isn't actually a lever, a physical plank of wood that has a fulcrum, which is precisely my point).
The difference between the successful professional and the struggling amateur can often be seen in their respective facility with metaphor. The amateur struggles to accept that metaphor is even acceptable ("are atoms actually building blocks?") or can't find the powerful analogy needed to bring home the concept. Because all metaphors aren't actually true, it takes confidence to use them well.
If you're having trouble understanding a disconnect, or are seeking to explain why something works or doesn't, begin with a metaphor. "Why is this new thing a lot like that understood thing…"
Metaphors aren't true, but they work.
PS more on this in my latest post on Medium.