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Transcendent Red - Red is not entirely and arbitrary sign.
The color red can signify many different things, depending upon particular contexts. Blood is red, and so flags and banners often use red as a color for courage and heroism. For the same reason, martyrdom is associated with red. When people become very angry, they might literally “see red” through the distended capillaries in their eyes and their faces might take on a reddish shade, so red often signifies anger. Through association with fire, red frequently represents the power of Spirit and of love at work in our lives. The color red carries none of these meanings in itself, any more than our hearts contain love as a physical substance.
Symbolic meanings for red or for anything else are interesting in what they reveal to us as members of communities. Whether a small group of persons decides to adopt a particular shade of color for a tee shirt, or a nation chooses a color for their flag, we choose external signs to represent significant values we hold or important decisions that we have made. Having agreed on physical symbols, we often identify so closely with them that we can take it as a kind of personal affront or rejection when others do not treat the symbol as we think they should. “Capture the flag” is a game in which flags represent and stand for competing groups of persons, so that a captured flag equivalently means a captured team.
Symbols take their meaning from mutual agreement among communities of persons. Red is just one part of a whole range of colors, and yet it seems not to be a wholly arbitrary sign. Besides a common need to use physical realities to aid us in communicating with one another about spiritual experiences, perhaps we also share some spiritual characteristics that relate directly with specific observable things such as blood, heart and fire. We are not obligated to associate red with love or with spirit, but doing so makes it easier for us to share meaningfully in various communities in which we make use of such symbolism.
The printed expression “a heart on fire with love” does not require a red color font in order to convey a meaning that a very wide range of persons across communities, nations and cultures can easily understand. However, each of the words in the saying names three common realities that are often associated with the color red. Whether it seems more an interesting coincidence or an example of something deeper, we make far more use of symbolic meanings in our lives than we might ordinarily recognize. We live in communities where our desires to share significant experiences is enhanced and facilitated by our use of symbols, emblems, marks, badges and logos.
We cannot comprehend transcendent realities, especially God, in any formulation of mere words. When we want to communicate with others about such things as inspirations, graces, thoughts and feelings related to transcendent experiences, we rely on the use of symbols, including words, metaphors, images and even gestures.
We can rejoice in the gift we humans have of being able to convey to one another some of our deepest experiences of life through symbols. Fighting over the use of symbols is in direct opposition to transcendence itself.
Last Updated 10/13/18