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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