Daily Archives: December 15, 2008

Randy-An author on “heliotrope” or the power of symbols

      Heliotrope?   But I didn’t look the word up.   The word called “heliotrope,” or “any plant that turns toward the sun,” became a symbol for James Joyce: a symbol associated in my mind with renewal as represented by the rising sun.   Joyce would’ve had many meanings; that’s how his mind worked.   “The rainbow girls dance, sing, or praise”; “Glugg fails to answer ‘a riddle: the answer is heliotrope,’ as Joyce pointed out in a July 1939 letter to Frank Budgen” (JOYCE A TO Z by A. Nicholas Fargnoli and Michael Patrick Gillespie p. 81 FINNEGANS WAKE).   The meaning of the word came to me through the reading of JAMES JOYCE HIS WAY OF INTERPRETING THE MODERN WORLD by W.Y. Tindall; the same week William J. “Memo” Grassman, a friend, died (on November 29, 2008).   Dr. Gary E. Schwartz, because it fit our friend’s life and his example to all of us who knew him, used the rising sun, as an attribute to Memo during his memorial service.   All of this seemed like an example of synchronicity, but the use of “heliotrope,” though it might not be perfect as a symbol, in this situation was extremely meaningful for me.

      The symbol made a lasting impression, more of an impression than if the symbol hadn’t been used.   And it was more than the word “heliotrope” (a color or a flower) itself; it carried with it also all of my feelings for Memo, a way of instantly reminding me of how he inspired me.   Inspired, I vowed to live more of my life as he did.   And the inspiration of Memo’s life…as I go about my day to day business…doesn’t now have to be recalled in great detail; I have a symbol, a powerful one to me at least.   To look toward the bright sun (in this case Memo with all of the attributes of an awakening source) has become important.   Yes, I have a symbol.   It’s my symbol.   In my life the symbol fills a need.   I need reminding; my life hasn’t always been on track.   I loved Memo for his humor, humanity and service; yet with the use of my symbol I see more than the man.   Though I’ll never think of him in terms of a deity, it elevates my thinking and adds significance.   Heliotrope, simple enough.   Heliotrope, am I.

Randy Ford

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