Friday, June 26, 2015

unpacking symbolism and the modern reader

One of the things that often gets talked about in my field of work (education) is that current readers/students seem to be losing the ability to think critically; that they are becoming decoders of information but not necessarily "understanders" of information.

photo credit: Day 24. via photopin
In other words, we, as a society, are becoming, potentially through the use of Internet and social media, readers who read for recognition and not necessarily comprehension.

We recognize what we read but we don't necessarily think about what the words themselves mean. And this is becoming more and more pronounced in younger generations who are used to skimming for ideas in blogs, web pages, texts, etc. As a whole, we are learning to look for main ideas, key points, and general synopsis without necessarily thinking about the bigger meanings behind the points or interconnections between them.

Of course there are going to be those who disagree with me. And there are always exceptions to the rule. But honestly, after working in education for 9+ years, I'm inclined to believe this is actually happening based on my personal experience with students and how much harder it is to help many students make analytical leaps in processing information.

Lately I've been thinking about what this means in terms of spiritual literacy. When we think about so much of our spiritual literature being allegorical or metaphorical in nature, decoding becomes a HUGE issue and lends itself to overly literal interpretations of said texts. That thought kind of scares me. And not just from an other spiritual perspective. It worries me in regards to pagan faiths too.

To read Crowley or Valiente without understanding the symbolic nature of what is described means never truly understanding the deeper meanings and mysteries being explored or depicted. I don't know how many times my teachers have brought my attention to some deeper interpretation of a text, one that I missed or didn't have the foundation knowledge for, that has blown me away.

Is this the role of a good teacher, especially nowadays when information is so readily available (seemingly so at least): to decode the symbolic narratives so that mythic illumination is possible? Is this work we can do alone or do we benefit more when we work together to unpack deeper meaning?

What do you think?


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