Today, I drew a tree. And that tree, to me, encompasses and represents all those things I’ve been thinking about life, form, and symbol.
About how all life takes form, but not all forms have life.
“The earth was without form and void,” and yet, the Pharisees were like “whitewashed tombs.” One, awaiting form, the other, awaiting life.
About how life produces life after it’s own form.
“A man reaps what he sows.” If planted, a bean seed will produce beans and more bean seeds, but will never grow up into a corn stalk.
About how symbols are intrinsically lifeless objects until they are given meaning by a lively, life-giving form.
“Son of man, can these bones live?” God asks the prophet. When the word is spoken, before the prophet’s eyes, the bones come alive, and that – that is a picture of what God will do for Israel. And that picture gives hope. But without a lively, life-giving form assigning it weight, it’s only a valley of bones.
So today, I drew a tree. Only a picture of a tree. Nothing close to the real deal, because it has no life. And yet, it holds weight because it is a product of my thoughts on life, form, and symbol – not unlike these words.
We all have our symbols – those representations of realities, literal or abstract. When we carry an object around our necks or in our skin or on our bodies, it says something about who we are and what we value. The objects with which we surround ourselves give further glimpses into who we are and what we value. Therefore, these objects, born or simply present, have weight – the weight with which we lively life-givers have infused them. That is why we become attached to them – the weight in our lives which we have created. Symbols must have life behind them.
And so we must be careful lest the symbols we carry do not represent our life – that is, our reality. If I bear a representation of life, like a tree, but I am not exhibiting signs of life, namely producing more life, the picture of a tree is just a picture of a tree. It means nothing.
If we survive the potential hypocrisy of symbols, then comes a great disconnect: what may be to one a meaningful symbol, may to another be only an object. To bridge that gap, we must learn to receive life from others, to be willing to understand why a thing is meaningful to them. We must learn to balance our desire to dismantle things we don’t understand with seeking out their weight in others. But let us not automatically dismiss what another values.
And let us not place greater weight on an object than we would on a lively, life-giving form. Or. On Life itself.