Thoughts on Symbolism

By Allison Protas

To experience a written text is to plunge into a dynamic interaction which journeys along infinite rivers and tributaries through our consciousness. It is not the direct transference of information onto a blank slate; from the series of letters and spaces themselves to the universally recognized ideas they represent, it is an affair with symbolism.

Often this symbolism transcends the intellect to instead tickle the spirit; from our individual to our collective progressions through life and history, we explore and perceive, creating a network of communication with the environment inherently mean ingful and yet frequently abstract:

My eyes open wide, staring intently at shapes and colors beneath my hands as I crawl on the tiled floor. I touch a rug and it touches me back. Everything is bright and alive. I grasp a spoon in one tiny hand and bang it against a cup. The clinking noise delights my ears. I yell with power! Then I look up to see a skirt, billowing above me. I'm lifted up, and make cooing sounds. Bathed in my mother's scent, my body relaxes into hers, and I'm filled with bliss. Some time later. Cool air touches my face as I crawl in a garden. Colorful flowers tower around me, and I'm surrounded by new smells. I tear one and bite it; my mouth is fil led with a bitter message. I spit it out. My mother comes. I hold out my hand to show her a wiggly black thing that tickles my hand. She reaches down and knocks it away. "Nasty spider!" she says. Then she holds a s oft thing to my face; it talks to my nose. "Rose," she says, then makes the same noise again. "Rose." I look up at her, then around me, and drift again into the world of scented colors... It was the Garden of Eden. Every infant lives in a bright Garden where everything is sensed directly, without the interference of thought. The "fall from grace" happens when we start thinking, when we become merely namers and knowers.

Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Yet the resulting symbols remain with us, however they might shift, expand, and contract across the boundaries of time, space and culture. They are deeply ingrained, as fundamental to our lives as they are to our literature.

If "symbolism is an instrument of knowledge and the most ancient and fundamental method of expression, one which reveals aspects of reality which escape other modes of expression" (Cooper, 7) it becomes inherently a fluid entity, one which may not be wholly confined within the rigid structure of a encyclopedic resource. The following entries are not designed to fulfill an equation; the very nature of symbols themselves precludes such a formulaic approach to their exploration. Each entry is intended as a gateway for speculation, geared specifically toward the appreciation of the genre of science fiction, yet applicable to any endeavour in the realm of literary analysis.

In this Age of Information, the exchange of ideas is evolving into an increasingly instantaneous transaction; as the technology advances, so does our susceptibility to riding on the surface, to overlooking the cultural, historical, and religious sym bolism which breathes life and relevance into the literary work. Thus, I have created a Dictionary of Symbolism within the electronic medium itself, to provide the reader with an enhanced appreciation for the symbolic richness of the text, while embracin g the advantages of accessibility and instant feedback. Whether the resource is used concurrently with electronic texts themselves or as a companion to traditional printed literature, my intention is to create an exciting and useful tool which will prov oke inspection and introspection within the mind of the interested reader.