I’ve been thinking a lot about symbols lately. I’m noticing my reaction to them as well the reactions of others. Why do we get so emotional over an item or image that we imbue with an idea or memory?
As a society or as an individual, we make a decision to remember something when we see that symbol.
A pink ribbon.
A red bucket.
An orange poppy.
These symbols bring to mind an idea whenever we see it. Whether the thought is a good one or a bad one, we allow the symbol to guide our thoughts.
A championship ring.
There are a couple of things we don’t always remember about symbols:
- Their meaning is not universal.
- The symbol is not the thing it represents.
A jersey is not a team.
A ring is not a marriage.
A flag is not a country.
Furthermore, what any of those things mean to me, might not be at all what they mean to you. What is a sacred object for her may be a scrap of cloth for him. What is a powerful talisman for him may be something nostalgic for her. When someone doesn’t treasure a symbol the same way we do, it’s not wise to immediate conclude that they don’t value the same things we do. They just don’t ascribe the same meaning or emotion to that particular symbol.
As someone who has worked hard to decrease my attachment to things, I use my reaction to symbols as mindfulness tool, a way to notice my reactions. Often, they make me question if I want my emotions wrapped up in a thing. Symbols can be helpful, but they are only a representation of the real ways we live out our beliefs, honor our memories and uphold our ideals.
They are not what really matters, even they make us feel that way.