Daniel (Danny) Lance Wright, Author

Friday, July 3, 2015

Let's Talk Symbols

I’m sure there are books and discussions out there on the importance of symbols to humankind since the beginning of recorded history. But, I cannot remember ever having seen or read anything that spoke on the subject in the broad sense.
The recent argument over the Confederate flag has sharpened my interest on the topic. Let me say that this is not about that, not specifically. It simply got the thought process ginning. My thoughts here are more questions than answers because I certainly don’t have answers, just thoughts.
It is odd to me, though, that what is in the heart of a person is not enough and apparently never has been. We must devise flags, medals, obelisks, carvings, jewelry, idols and myriads of other things to bolster a belief and proclaim it to the world and, sometimes, meant to divide and conquer. More often than not it seems symbols are designed and meant to herald superiority and divisive thinking, to the detriment of harmony within the human family.
I suppose I need to offer my personal opinion on the subject of symbolism, since this is my discussion after all. And, I may very well prove to be the odd man out with my views. That’s okay. It certainly won’t be first time I’ve stood alone with an opinion. Symbols mean little to me, as a general rule. For example: I’ve been married forty five years and have never worn a wedding band. If I need a reminder that I’m married or a reminder to tell people I’m married, then the marriage is not that solid, and may have been questionable from the beginning. Here’s another example that might make some people cringe: I don’t need to see a cross, have one hanging in my house, or around my neck to remind me of my Christianity or to tell people of those beliefs. That’s enough personal examples. That should give you some background on my thoughts.
I do understand that symbols serve as guiding beacons, such as stop signs, logos, flags, and other objects. But, that is not what I’m referring to, not exactly. I’m talking specifically about escalating the value of a symbol, any object, beyond its usefulness as a ‘guiding beacon’. Somewhere along the way, the importance of some symbols are deified or demonized unto themselves and elevated to the level of gods or devils. And, they are neither, but rather simple representations that should do nothing more than to guide a person toward, or away from, something.

I would be interested in hearing or reading other people’s thoughts on the subject now that the door has been thrown wide, wide open on the subject of symbols and their importance in our lives. What do you think? 


  1. $There is a huge part of humanity who needs symbolism to have order in their lives. They are the non-free thinkers, the ones who never seek what is beyond their every day lives. That does not demean their intelligence just their perception of the world around them. They demand familiarity and become disoriented if that order is threatened.

    How often in your writing to you find yourself telling about certain symbols that your characters are comfortable with?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dale. The thoughts of others always provide clarity for me. And, yeah, symbols in novels are important as they relate to the characters. Of course, every piece of cover art is a symbol unto itself, a representation of what's inside.