You know who I mean right? The muppet threatened by cutbacks to PBS? I was listening to the radio this morning about the US election campaign and I was made aware of the enormous power of symbols over human events. Is Romney the Grinch who will steal Big Bird, to mix our symbolic references? That the question can be seriously asked should tell us something of how our minds work.
Who is Big Bird? Is he “real” or “symbolic”? Or can something be real and symbolic at the same time, and yet be entirely the creation of human ingenuity? Well he sure is a character. You know him as well as you know some of your cousins. So he is “real” in some sense. But he is also a symbol. Ideally he would have no existence but for a man putting on a bird costume, and acting in children’s television. It does not worry you that this is so – Big Bird is not less real for being an obvious contrivance, not less symbolic because acted by a man in a feathered suit.
Thus our “knowledge” encompasses knowing fictions as we know persons, and those fictions can instruct us, change our behaviour for better or worse, and provide symbolic benefits whose reality we do not question.
Now imagine if God wanted to create his own Big Bird to instruct the human species. How would He do it?
Man does not live by bread alone but by mystery,love and high adventure.