What would you say is mankind’s most important invention? The telephone? Electricity, the light bulb, airplane, the web? Or would you say it was the wheel, the combustion engine? How about penicillin, contraceptives?
While all of the above have been and continue to be of great importance to the world, I believe the alphabet is the single most important. A set of symbols without which this world would be a vastly different place. So different it’s difficult to imagine.
Now you could argue that the alphabet, comprising relatively small number of symbols, isn’t an invention. You may say it is more of a live system of constantly developing symbols which will continue to develop eventually making the existing one as alien to future generations as the pictographic symbols of ancient Egypt is to us. My view on it is that someone, somewhere, had to say to themselves and then to others, we need a better system of communication. And off they went, a set of symbols was invented.
Other than the alphabet, you’d have to agree that symbols in general, are an integral part of life. There is no getting around it or denying it, we respond to symbols like trained pets. Sometimes the response is deep and sincere relief, think the last time you saw the symbol for a public convenience, when in dire need of one. Imagine being in a foreign country, unable to read or speak the language and there’s no international symbol for a loo. Like, hello trouble!
Symbols are extremely powerful and recognisable. They transcend language. Think Apple, McDonald’s, Red Cross, Coca Cola, Star of David, Batman, Superman, Nike, etcetera.
Then there are the communal symbols; you might call them. Like flags representing countries. These flags unite, sometimes divide but almost always powerfully represent. Masses stand for them, salute them and die under them.
What isn’t often thought about is how symbols often play important roles in individual lives, recurring and bringing with them results, sometimes good and sometimes not so good.
My own personal recurring one is the letter M. Names of organisations and individuals starting with that letter have played truly significant roles throughout my life. Very, very interesting to say the least.
You may find that a particular symbol or two have played a part in your own life dear reader, if you stop and think about it.