Which symbols are precious to you?
How do symbols gain value?
How are symbols created and when are they no longer used?
In my job as a mathematician and teacher I am surrounded by symbols. We use symbols to make things more efficient, bring attention to items for future reference, to abbreviate ideas, and to represent other things. Google defines a symbol:
I am struck by the reference to musical notation as the notes on a page represent a tone and length of that tone but is it really MUSIC? No, the power to music comes from listening to it. Are musical symbols necessary? In some cases, yes. I think it is amazing that Pachelbel’s intentions for the sound of his piece is probably the same now at the 100 weddings this weekend as he originally intended it to sound in the 1700s. Without these symbols, that tradition might have been lost.
I think it is amazing in mathematics that by noting this:
that the observer will know that I intend for lines l and m to never meet, EVER. After establishing that, we have a whole slew of other ideas to show and prove. Simple lines on a page take the place of words and meaning, as long as you understand what my symbols intend. Symbols take on meaning only when the inscriber and the observer “know what you mean”. Unfortunately, to the casual observer, some of this meaning is lost if you don’t know what I mean. Thus rendering the symbol useless.
We place so much emphasis on symbols such as our flag, a cross, a star, a rainbow triangle, a plus sign, and the list continues. We assume that other parties “know what you mean” by displaying these symbols. But do they? To show our dislike for an idea, we may dishonor, erase, or disrupt the symbols associated with these symbols. When symbols we hold with high regard are treated in this way, we react with knee jerk reactions. Why? These symbols are just that – symbols. Symbols may represent these real feelings and ideas, but the symbols themselves ARE NOT WHAT THEY REPRESENT. Before we get up in arms about how a symbol is treated, we need to reconsider those feelings and realize that just because the symbol was treated in such a way, it does not take away from the essence and being of the thing the symbol is intended to represent.