What is the difference between metaphorical and literal interpretation, and what does it have to do with 2001?

As a kid, you read THE FOX AND THE GRAPES. Initially, you may have 
thought that once upon a time there was a Greek-speaking fox who had his 
mind read by a psychic named Aesop, but later, you learned that this 
"fable" helped to explain YOUR (not the Fox's) (possibly irrational) 
behavior: "Hey, this reminds me of the time when I wanted to go to 
Disney World, Dad said I couldn't, so I thought 'Aah, I'd rather go to 
Six Flags anyway. The Fox is lying to himself; maybe I'm lying to 
myself." As you grew up, you learned over time not to take fables as 
literal truths, but rather, as more PROFOUND truths -- metaphorical 
truths, truths which cut across a wide variety of situations -- truths 
which gave you a compass, gave you feedback in getting through and 
understanding the world. Ultimately, these "fables," formerly seen as 
"kid stuff," turned out to be valuable in helping you see the world more 
clearly.

Metaphorical truth isn't "less truthful" -- it's more truthful, because 
it covers more situations than just the immediate fact-pattern. This 
universality gives the parable and the myth power. The 2 + 2 = 4 of 
morality, ethics, and drama are played out on the metaphorical level, 
unlike the 2 + 2 = 4 of math, which is pedantically and hopelessly 
literal. You might even say that the line which divides the literal from 
the metaphorical is the same one which divides Science from Art. Art is 
the Navigator, Science the Engineer; both necessary for the journey.

Kubrick's style can fool ya. He spends a great deal of time creating
a plausible literal base for his films; consequently, even those who are 
unable to find any meanings other than literal will find something to 
like in a Kubrick film. However, this attention to detail can create the 
illusion that Kubrick's films are documentaries, and can put a person in 
the same frame of mind they are in when reading a newspaper. But this 
isn't necessarily the right frame of mind for getting out of Kubrick's 
films all the meanings they "contain."

When seeing 2001, people sometimes focus on the literal anomalies which 
arise. Specifically, many people ask "how could Bowman survive in the 
airlock without a helmet?" Curiously, these people don't ask, "how can 
an embryo fly through outer space in subzero temperatures with no 
umbilical cord?" or "how can a baby be born without a father and 
mother?" A simple explanation is that in these latter cases there is no 
literal frame that lulls you into the literal frame of mind, unlike the 
former.

The answer is simple: the literal level is just a set of training-
wheels, the first rung on the ladder. To really make the bicycle fly, 
you'll need to lose those training wheels . . .

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