A symbol is something that represents an idea, process, fight or a physical entity. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a flooded neighborhood calls-out for wiser urban planning and environmental justice. Smoke stacks symbolize the dangers from industrial pollution. Numerals can be effective symbols, like the 350 Campaign logo. Personal names are symbols that represent individuals or families. Here a Polar Bear symbolizes melting glaciers. In cartography, an organized collection of symbols forms a legend, or key.
How do they work? Fail?
Legal, logical or emotional connections need to support and connect the symbol with the thing it represents. Some would also support the idea that symbols are opinion drivers in the political arena. Symbols, logos and slogans are commonly tied together to support a cause (on a tee shirt!). People, ecosystems, animals (steer!) and plants are often utilized as symbols. Symbols can fail when their theme, color scheme or shape does not support a larger message.
Are the graphic and color themes important in the symbol?
Within many symbols, there are colors or color palettes that help to “push” it’s meaning. If you replace the yellow in the bee with green, does this symbol have the same “clout?” But then – what does a bee symbolize?!
Are symbols important to alchemy and mythology?
For centuries symbols have been considered special instructions or codes and help build road maps to new adventure and visions for both alchemists and mythologists. As transmutational agents, symbols create attention, “knowledge-starts” and awareness at many levels of our being. The circle of wheat is both a labyrinth (journey) and a globally-connected food crop now under heavy pressure from changing weather patterns.
Questions to Consider -
1. To some, as in the house and family in the storm, symbols can support a universal meaning or message and can support a group’s unified belief and action plan. Can you name a symbol that is widely recognized in disaster work?
2. For climate change, there are 50 + symbols out there related to CO2, species loss and food crops. Should we create one symbol like the “PEACE” sign to empower the cause of reducing CO2 and building unity?