Symbols need context in order be just that, a symbol. My 5am walk Thursday brought to light (pun intended) the brilliant full moon. I would rather walk outdoors in dark, humid conditions any day than on an indoor track. Passing a rabbit a few feet away from a skunk with raised tail is much more exciting than rounding the same stale-smelling curved track multiple times passing others whose attention is focused on their iPod music. It was the second morning this week that I was surprised by a skunk and I’m happy to say both times they continued their foraging when they realized I was no threat. I would like to say that I felt like a pioneer using the moonlight to show my way, but the frequent streetlights outshone the full moon.
For some the full moon symbolizes strength and wholeness which is ironic. Without the sun’s light, which is a byproduct of great energy, there is no moonlight. And from earth the same half of the moon is all that is ever seen; the full moon only shows one half.
Are streetlights symbols of the moon which are symbols of the sun? Both mark the passage of time, shining light at nighttime and dark during the daytime. The moon is a richer symbol of changing time as its appearance goes from an unlit new moon to the bright full moon and back to a new moon every twenty eight days. The streetlight has no cycle of change, nor does it have a dark side.
These cell phone images at first glance might appear to show multiple moons, but they are all streetlights except for one full moon that has not yet set for coming daytime. I paused from my downward observations of skunk and other wildlife to revel in the moonlight, only to realize the more relevant symbol it holds for me has nothing to do with light. I’m a teacher, and all teachers know the wild dark side of students is often evident when the full moon is due.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “symbol” as
- Authoritative summary of faith
- Something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance