Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cavern Watch: Turning Inward Toward Metaphor

Cavern Watch - Image c Lynda Lehmann

The owl with his huge eyes and prominent brow is seen as watchful.  Is his vigilance a metaphor for the subconscious mind, perhaps?  He is often seen as a symbol of wisdom or an incarnation of awareness.  But could he be seen also as a symbol or harbinger of things to come?  Or even of the ultimate?  We all face death at the end of our individual and collective life cycles, so it makes sense that we would project our thoughts about our mortality onto some external symbol, in order to deal with our apprehensions.   

Seeing the owl as metaphor is widespread among cultures. What is it in our human psyche that pushes us to recognize or attribute comparisons by way of metaphor?  Is it inherent in our need to clarify or find meaning in the human experience, to understand our world?

For me, a cavern also makes a good metaphor.  I see it as an apt symbol for the inner workings of the individual psyche and for the human body, which "contains" the elements i.e. organs and awareness that we need to be alive, and to live what we call a "life." 

Plato, a student of Socrates, used the cave metaphor differently, in a parable in which Socrates explains the nature of true knowledge being beyond that which can be ascertained by watching shadows move against a wall in a cave setting, which you can read about here if you are interested.  

On a recent trip to Luray Caverns in Virginia, I had the pleasure of photographing many of the cave's remarkable formations.  As you can see, they can resemble anything from practical everyday objects to objects of magic or incarnations from what some cultures believe is the "Spirit World."

Hall of the Ancient Spirits - Image c Lynda Lehmann

Lake of the Underworld - Image c Lynda Lehmann

Primordial Cascade - Image c Lynda Lehmann

Greek classical philosophers and children's fables and fairy tales aside, what's your idea of a good metaphor?  Do you find that a particular symbol is prominent in your conscious mind and has special meaning for you?


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  1. I love metaphors! My favorite is the hand which to me is the symbol for creativity and life. Hands have so much symbolism. Holding them, praying with them, working with them. And of course you can tell a lot more about a person because of their hands then any other part of their body. Age, work, softness. Etc. To me they are up there with the eyes of the soul. Love, love, love the photos! Hope you are well.

  2. tangled stitch - I know how much you love hands, as you have used them so much as a theme in your stitchery. I think you're right, and as a matter of fact, they may sometimes be more telling than the eyes.

    Thanks for stopping by. It's great to see you!

  3. ANNE - Great to see your lovely smile! Thanks for visiting and for your kind words. :)

  4. Those pictures are astounding. What an experience.

    I love metaphors that use the elements, weather and other natural phenomenon as the vehicles for human experience. "Her soft voice was a knife of lightening through my mind."



  5. Hi Casey - Using the elements for your metaphors sounds good to me! What offers us a sensory impression to bind to and emphasize an idea, more than the natural world?

    Thanks for visiting. Hope you're having a good summer!

  6. You ask the right questions (about the owl and the cave) and you also provide the right answers.
    Your pictures of the formations at the Luray Caverns are amazing!

    As for metaphors, I love them, but we live in a harsh world which forces us to see things mainly in a pragmatic way, less in a metaphoric one.

  7. Lynda, What beautiful photographs and I love metaphors! As always, I feel inspired by your work--your art and the art of your words! Warmly, Barbara

  8. Duta - It is without doubt, a harsh world. While I usually act in a pragmatic way, art (books, music, making art, reveling in metaphors) gives me a needed respite from that harshness. I try to channel negative feelings into finding the beauty in the world.

    My best to you, Duta. Hope you are staying cool in this sweltering summer.

  9. Spirited Strider - And you inspire me with your positivism and generosity. I'm still hoping to meet up with you one day, in NYC perhaps.... :)

  10. Hi Lynda :D!

    I missed your posts already, darling.

    The Owl is a harbinger of the things to come and a reminder that we must be alert at all times, for we know not what kind of things will come.
    The minute I looked at your image I remembered that Twin Peaks' saying "The owls are not what they seem"...again, a reminder that we must stand alert, always, for nothing is what seems to be.

    A cavern usually symbolises the womb; just like a receiving cup represents the female genitalia. But nothing is linear; they can both have other meanings, depending on the context.

    Ah, yes: the Allegory of the Cave. I studied it in 10th grade, in philosophy class. It is a most interesting piece and enlightening too. I recommend it to kids, so that they learn important lessons (like going beyond appearances) since young age.

    We have a place similar to Luray Caverns, here in Portugal: "D'aires caverns"...gorgeous and mystical.

    Lynda, life itself is an excellent metaphor...

    I hope all is well with you, darling :D.


  11. I always wondered how do people do this kind of things... Look at this one as well: Drawings Paintings Prints, I'm searching art blogs to learn more about drawing, I really would like to develop it..
    Following you through reader.

  12. Hello my dear Max,

    Forgive me for taking so long to respond. I'm behind the Eight Ball, as usual, with my posts and comments.

    Yes, metaphor can be seen in many if not most things, as well as in life itself. All truths seems to reflect each other at varying levels of meaning.

    I'm glad you're back from your holiday and happy to see you, as always. Now I will come over to see what you are up to, these late summer days.... xxx

  13. Baba - I couldn't live without making art. It just whisks me away into a more positive reality. :) It's where I need to be!

    As far as drawing goes, the best way to learn is just to keep doing it. You will see great improvements, over time. Of course it is a good idea to seek out and look at other's work, to see their technique.

    Hope you pursue your goal of developing your skills! Thanks for your visit, and please forgive my late response. :)


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