Saturday, February 2, 2019

Symbols, Systems, and Meaning

Why are symbols so important? Because they encompass our entire communication system, and often certain symbols evolve into very personal meanings whether they are audible, visual, or gestural. As new scientific information shows, we have been developing these systems since the Neanderthal age.  I discussed this in We've Been Recording Information Longer Than We Thought. Some scholars even study symbols under the theme of Semiotics which explores the history and meaning of signs, symbols, and their significance for believers.  

Every human uses symbols every day. Every word anyone says is a symbolic sound with meaning. These sounds were put into letters to symbolize those sounds as numerals symbolize numbers. Other visual symbols include images such as %, $, #, @ and so forth including mathematics symbols. I have a whole collection of blogs on numerical symbols that have little to do with math. We also use gesture and expression symbols. When a person rolls their eyes and isn’t passing out, its often a gesture meaning “Do you believe that?” or “Whatever.”

In writing authors frequently use symbolism in the form of allegory, analogy, metaphor and simile to tie hard to understand ideas with easier to comprehend ideas such as: the brain acts as the home of memory.

Our belief systems have used symbols for equally long times, even during the Byzantine period of Eikonoklasmos or Iconoclasm, where all visual religious symbols were destroyed in the churches during the 8th century for profaning the Commandment 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' The leaders of the Church in Rome's knew their believers needed those images to understand their God since so many were illiterate. Looking back on that practice, I guess the Emperors of Constantinople didn’t realize the language and decorative devices were also symbols.

Prophetical symbols are used in most religions. They embody the practice of prediction through astrology horoscopes, numerology, and the tarot. Astrology, based on observable movements of the solar system, began as far back as Mesopotamia, but aspects of it are still used today, as is tarot. Tarot began as a card game in the mid 1400’s and a few hundred years later became a means of divination. It is also the basis of modern design of decks of playing cards today, although the Chinese began card games much earlier.

Businesses use symbols today in the form of logos or the symbol of a company. These let customers know right away where a product comes from. Our country and most countries have symbols such as flags that represent their government and are often used on their money. A person's name is also their symbol.

Animals, both real and mythical, often have symbolic meaning not only for sports teams but also for nations and many other purposes.

With any symbol, it is the personal interpretation that counts. All the symbols found on any keyboard (letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc.) are pretty straight forward in meaning for the translations of sound. It is the other symbols in every society that are often open to interpretation on an individual's understanding and psychology. Some individuals even select personal symbols to represent their psyche. This is why I find symbols fascinating.

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