THE POWER OF SYMBOLS
I've survived two serious car wrecks in my relatively short life. Through the physical and psychological trauma, my body has developed a defense- a mild PTSD.
I have trouble taking naps in moving cars. I wake myself up, bracing for a rollover collision that isn't there. Car wrecks in films have a profound effect on me, as well. My body has increased its neurological sensitivity to vehicular violence. Proverbial sirens go off in my head, warning me of potential, but non-existent, dangers.
Watching "Mad Max" is more exciting now. But, what does my driving record have to do with Symbols?
Life events, out of our control, develop knee jerk reactions within our psyche. We can attempt to consciously control our reaction to stimuli but have little control over our subconscious. We tend to associate experiences with symbols and create in ourselves a psychological trigger- A sort of benign PTSD.
Artists can use this natural phenomenon to connect with their audience on an almost biological level, a powerful tool in the right hands.
Many Symbols are ambiguous or have too many potential meanings to be useful. Culture plays a huge role in a symbol and its association. The most prominent rift in the use of Symbol is between Eastern and Western interpretations.
Eastern Culture typically associates a symbol with its real life attributes. Things are what they are.
The pig is an intelligent and pleasant creature, while the goat is resourceful and durable. The Eastern symbols reflect these characteristics.
But, Western Culture strives to put everything in a box. The two biggest boxes being Good and Evil. The Christian idea of duality promoted most by the apostle Paul has permeated Western culture.
A goat represents the guilty, stubborn and unrepentant. A pig, unclean for the Hebrews, is equally reprehensible in Western Symbols.
Jesus understood the culture and crafted his stories accordingly. He uses the symbol of the Pig in his parable of the prodigal son to communicate just how far a father's grace can reach.
The world changes rapidly, and so does its symbols.
I challenge you to be on the lookout for powerful and new totems that communicate truth on a deeper level, much deeper than words will ever go.