Full disclosure: I am a big fan of figurative, symbolic, and hidden meanings. I find them life-giving and full of adventure. I feel like they deepen my appreciation and enjoyment of life. It should then come as no surprise that I feel overlooked and misunderstood by anyone who insists that figures and symbols are somehow less “real” than literal material things. It can sometimes feel like a full on assault on my worldview. The invisible realm has often been more “real” to me than the visible.
I think what I love most about symbols is that they require intentionality. Symbols are deeply linked to meaning because they require someone to purposefully endow them with a message, and they require others to purposefully seek to understand that message. Many times in the process of discovering that message, we end up adding our own message to that symbol and rather than becoming a contradiction, the symbol becomes a conglomerate. Somewhere in the midst of imparting and inferring messages, we become filled with meaning. Everything about symbols comes back and boils down to intentionality.
I fully suspect it’s the nature of intention to develop symbols. Intention tends to operate against the flow of entropy. It is something that concentrates resources rather than spreading them out. It operates with a purpose, toward a goal of building something up rather than tearing down or ceasing activity. Intention results in something that would not naturally occur but that demonstrates the invisible qualities of consciousness with brilliant creativity and rationality.
One of the most beautiful things about intention is that it can be felt. It might even be primarily perceived through feeling. Intentionality can harness the best that mental prowess can offer and utilize it toward expressing the most core fulfilling desires of the heart. Intentionality is the marriage of the heart and the head and symbols are the fruit of that marriage. And you can feel the intention that gave birth to a symbol. You can recognize purpose and affection and kindness. You can feel meaning oozing out of its very existence.
So I guess all I’m really trying to say is that intentionality changes everything. It always makes things more meaningful than they were before. Additionally, symbols are not mere coincidences. Figures and hidden meanings are not worthless intellectual pursuits. Their end goal is not to assert the dominance of the intellect but to draw your whole being into the experience of life and to discover equilibrium between the pinnacle of critical thought and the fullness of delight. As you can tell, I really like symbols and I intend to continue enjoying them.