When we write poetry, unless we are trying to be clever, we talk directly from the heart. In the same way that we are born with the natural capacity for language, our hearts are encoded with layers and layers of rich meaning that we inherently understand in life. It is the symbolism of our dreams and the creative arts. The shared understanding of the world that doesn’t require explicit language.
I really like this aspect of reality. When I was crazy, I spent a lot of time understanding conversations and media in primarily this format. It’s insane how much we communicate to each other without realising it.
Now I am more sane, I still enjoy accessing this realm of understanding. When something strikes me as particularly interesting or meaningful to me, I get joy out of looking into the underlying possible symbolism that is being communicated. It is a way of going deeper into life. The purpose is not to analyse something to get the right answer, it is to understand that the deepest truth of what we are expressing can’t always be explicit.
I wanted to share my understanding of this poem with you. I don’t overthink my poetry and I get the impression that Tim Key is the same, although I can’t say for sure. My intention in delving into this is not to assume that this is what he meant or to dictate some kind of right answer about what is being said, it is to explore the mystery of how humans have a natural capacity for creating mysterious and profound shared meaning out of things, even when they don’t realise they’re doing it.
When I was deep in my subconscious and interacting with people in this realm I got pretty scared of how little control we have over our lives. So many of the choices we make in life are just an illusion and it’s quite scary how much time we spend going about our days thinking we are making decisions, but actually just following habit paths and having our perceptions, ourselves and our actions dictated as a product of our environments. This poem reframed it for me.
By the way, translation of symbolism is an art, not a science, so take this as the ‘Rosa Lewis translation’ of this poem. I am going to take it verse by verse.
Verse One – The Hero’s Journey
- Amaal – an Islamic name that means hope and expectations
- Letter – message from your subconscious
- Seed – the human psyche and soul, potential, the continuity of life
- Apple – grandeur
- War – disorder, struggle and chaos
- Apple tree – wisdom and prosperity
This verse is telling us the hero’s journey. It is describing how our heart’s subconscious intentions create our hopes and expectations for ourselves and our lives. We have grand ideas about how we can reach our potential and contribute to the development of life and the world and we plant these ideas back inside of our hearts.
If we go out into the world to try and achieve these dreams and we face our lives whole-heartedly and with courage, we will encounter struggle and difficulty. We will meet the chaos and roadblocks that were the things stopping us from already living in this way. This forces us to grow, so we develop wisdom and this in turn can bring us prosperity in life.
Verse Two – Grace
- Grace – the bestowal of blessings
- Letter – message from your subconscious
- Shades – poor perception and darkness
- Tears – an expression of joy
This verse is describing how acts of grace come about. One day, once we have developed enough wisdom in our hearts, this will subconsciously change our experience and our hearts will send ourselves a different message. It will allow us to see things clearly and take away the darkness of life, giving us a sense of joy.
Verse Three – The Goddess’ Journey
- Pen – the pen is mightier than the sword, symbolic of an inner journey rather than a journey out into the world
- Plum – vitality and innocence
- Stone – quest in recognising and developing your self-identity
- Watermelon – desire and connection
- Fruit – abundance
- Sidney – a name meaning ‘south of the water’, which is representative of emotional darkness
- Parachute – protective force
- Flight – a project that is about to take off
- The Sudanese flag – the colours and shapes represent the heart moving through layers of darkness, light and connection.
This verse is telling us the story of the Godess’ journey, which is about turning inwards and facing the darkness and difficulty we find there. We can be inspired to go inside when we have achieved some of our biggest hopes in life, once we have been graced with the blessing of joy.
We start with a sense of our own innocence, we don’t know about the darkness that exists inside of us until we decide to go on a quest to understand ourselves better and deepen our relationship with life. What fuels us through this story is not the hope of achievements but the desire for deep connections with each other and ourselves. We hope to discover an abundance of love.
We delve into our emotional darkness, which is a very solemn and difficult journey to face. Unlike the Hero’s journey where we are full of excitable ideas, we can fall into our darkness very easily with the Goddess journey. The struggles come from the ascent back out.
Again, if we show up whole-heartedly and with courage, we can trust in our heart’s natural ability to protect and heal us during this ascent. It will catch us if we fall back down. And if we follow our heart’s direction we can work our way back up through the layers of the darkness to the light, where we will return with a deeper capacity to connect to life.
The hope for a deeper love can inspire us through the journey but the real culmination is our greater capacity to hold life in all its light and dark. It gives us a deeper sense of connection, not because we have received more love from others but because we have opened parts of ourselves to experience. It gives us greater depths of compassion and access to joy.
The Meaning of Life
As I described, this poem completely reframed my perception of how our lives play out. It stopped me focusing on our lack of control in life and helped me to focus on the beauty of how our lives are built on subconscious messages that our hearts are sending us in every moment; about what things mean, what is important to us and how we navigate through life.
We aren’t in control, but our hearts are. The only way we are going to find joy in life is if we follow our heart’s desires and instructions. The secret to life is to get out of their way and trust them to do their thing. It’s what is happening whether we realise it or not, so we may as well relax into it.
The translation of symbolism is not really an intellectual or academic process. It is uncovering what we already know in our heart’s to be true. Our hearts inherently know the meaning behind things, it is what they are for. It is our brains that get confused and tie ourselves in knots.
I see people having conversations rich with symbolism all the time, without even realising it. When I told a new friend that, ‘I put more effort into choosing my ice-cream flavour than deciding on what job I should be doing in life,’ I was accidently and subconsciously telling them that I care more about having jokes in our conversation than it being productive. They understood it on a subconscious level and it shifted the dynamic between us.
One of the key messages that permeates through Buddhism is that reality arises from pure awareness. That we are creating our world through our perception and what we decide to put our attention on.
This focuses purely on the Hero’s journey as the answer to happiness. It tells us that if we go up and out into pure awareness, that is where we will find the truth of our experience and experience the peace that we seek through our spiritual path.
It does have some truth to it, but it is not the full story. What I have perceived by opening myself so deeply to the subconscious and archetypal realms of our experience is that there are whole layers of richness and depth to our experience that impact our behaviour and perception of the world, but that awareness doesn’t even come near. We are moving through life in mysterious and interesting ways that only our hearts can understand.
Awareness doesn’t even touch them, so they can’t be arising within awareness. Awareness is just one aspect of reality that is arising simultaneously with these other elements and forces that move us and the Universe.
Even when most of my awareness was in this realm, there were plenty of symbolism I came across and decisions I made that didn’t make sense until a later date. It directed my heart to move through life in a certain way, but the story had to play out in order for my mind to be able to understand what it meant and why I did things.
We watch films and read books and have conversations that have levels of meaning that we will never be able to fully comprehend. We say things and create art that expresses stuff we had no idea was inside of us. My poetry has depths to it that I never consciously intended.
The world is full of too much information for our minds to hold, there are layers of understanding and existing that aren’t meant to be understood by awareness or consciousness. If we want access to the joy and understanding that this can give us we have to trust the messages we get from our bodies and emotions and intuition as much as the ones we get from our conscious minds.
This brings me back around to the meaning of life. The meaning of life is to develop our capacity to hold joy. Joy is the deep-seated feeling that life is enjoyable and a worthwhile experience to be part of, even when things are hard. It is self-seeding, we cultivate joy in order to feel more joy in life. It is a positive spiral that facilitates beauty and wisdom and love and compassion and care and pretty much everything good in life.
Joy is a state in which we are not separate from other people. We can’t develop joy and hoard it to ourselves, it is naturally shared with the people around us so by developing it in ourselves we are naturally improving the world.
We develop our capacity for joy by embarking on the Hero’s journey and the Goddess’ journey. The Hero’s journey increases our capacity to see things more clearly. We can remove darkness by bringing the light in. The Goddess journey increases our capacity to feel things more deeply. We can remove darkness by increasing our capacity to hold difficult emotions, which brings the experience of them up to the light. Both of these allow us to open into the world and create space for joy to come into our lives.
The letter that I have written to Grace is that we find ways to bring this understanding of life into our spirituality so that we can create a more joyful world. The reply I have penned to Hope is that I find people who I can enjoy sharing the journey with.