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ESSAY - Symbols

We will only look at one aspect of this vast topic, namely symbols as a means of long term concept transmission. Symbols provide a means for keeping a message intact over long spans of time, or across radical perceptual changes. Put yourself in God's place, and imagine choosing a method for communicating a message across hundreds of generations. Compound the problem by making these generations largely illiterate. Compound it again by requiring that the message be communicated by people who do not really understand the message. Compound it yet again by making the message a high level concept requiring discernment. An extremely daunting task. In this light, no other means than a symbol seems remotely feasible.

From the many instances let our single example be the serpent on the staff in the camp of Israel in the wilderness. Why a snake? As a symbol of Jesus raised on the cross. But again, Jesus as a snake? The reason is that Jesus was raised on the cross as the embodiment of our evil. I enjoy this example because it was given to me as a child by people I am convinced did not understand it. It was a Bible story. But nevertheless they planted a seed in me that I carried for years until it exploded forth in meaning.

As an aside, our Lord's symbols dwarf human art because we form symbols from words and pictures, while God forms His from nations in symbols True from the core of the Earth to the Throne of Heaven

I wondered about the reason for speaking in parables when the intention was for them to hear and not understand. Why then speak at all? The answer is in the nature of symbols, allowing the hearers to carry and pass on symbols, whose inner meaning they need not comprehend, with the message intact. To use a symbol here, Jesus planted seed that would bear fruit in due season.

A song can be carried with you for years before suddenly its meaning becomes clear. In part this is why I so strongly dislike simplistic songs. Such songs are seeds that immediately produce a worthless plant and then die. Such songs without depth do nothing to stock my storehouse with treasures I can only utilize after I have grown to their level. Failing to thus enrich me, such songs are a waste of my capacity.

 
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