Published on Jan 27, 2020

Symbol Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

Symbols have always been an integral part of man’s life. We have symbols in every walk of life; some are obvious, others not even though in every day use. In this modern world every organization public or private attempts to have a unique and distinctive identity by creating a symbol in the form of a logo or emblem. By very definition a symbol represents something that may be physical or even nonphysical such as an idea or a concept. It is not the ‘thing in itself’, the substance or reality behind it. As long as the distinction between the symbol and the substance is clearly understood the use of symbol serves its purpose. The problem comes when it is confused with the substance. This occurs most frequently when a symbol represents something nonphysical; we find it happening in almost every human activity.

For example, when we are reading a book or a newspaper we are hardly aware of the fact that the letters and words are only symbols that convey ideas through the medium of a particular language. In fact each letter forming the words on the pages is a symbol for a particular sound. The letter in itself means nothing. The same is true for numbers; there is nothing seven-like in number seven. It is just a symbol written in a certain way in a given language. Languages are man made and, in general, everything that is man made is a symbol for some idea.

When the symbol takes the identity of the real thing it results in a degeneration of the original idea and its very purpose is lost. The form becomes the substance and the principle becomes a dogma. The individual loses the ability of rational thinking which in turn stunts personal growth.


Symbols and Self-development

Now what significance does this relationship between symbol and reality have in the context of self-development? We shall consider a few examples here to answer this question. First we consider personal relationships of which marriage is the most intimate. Even the word marriage is a symbol representing a special relationship between two people of opposite sex, a union of two souls. It is the beginning of a lifelong relationship that has to be developed with mutual faith and respect. Looking at the number of marriages that end in divorce it would seem that very few couples understand the real concept of marriage. They may profess to be in love without realizing the true meaning of love. Love is the most noble of human emotions and true love is not based on mere physical attraction.

In the old days of matchmaking and arranged marriages there was no mention of love as such; love was supposed to start and grow from the union. Instead there was devotion and moral strength gained from a complete understanding of mutual responsibility. There were no undue expectations, just a determination to dedicate one’s life to another for the betterment of both. In particular the bride’s virtues had endurance far greater than that of physical attraction. With time the lust and passion would dwindle but they would have something more substantial to keep the bond in place. We cannot go back to those old practices now but it would help if people remember and try to inculcate those values.

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