This weekend, I had an experience that could make you believe in augury. Or at least make you understand it. I was at a dragon boat race with my team, the Mighty Women. We were waiting for information on our next race. Suddenly, a dragonfly as big as my fist, riding astride the back of the prey it was devouring, perched and clung to the left breast of one of my team mates. It stayed there for several minutes, while the rest of us took pictures and gasped in awe, not only at the sight, but at our team mate's incredibly calm and unruffled demeanor. (I would post a picture, but I think I should ask her permission first!)
The moment was so strange, the sight so bizarre, it was impossible not to seek for significance in it. A dragonfly at the dragon boat race. Devouring its prey as we prepared for our finals. On a woman's left breast, the breast that the legendary Amazon warriors of old reputedly sliced off in order to improve their archery skills. It was so loaded with the aura of significance that my own ability to apply meaning to it actually left me. The image itself was the meaning. Imagine what some ancient high priestess might have made of it.
This morning, as I was swimming in the pool at the gym, I found myself thinking back on that moment. Why? Because I found myself thinking in metaphor. Swimming does that to me. One moment, my head is submerged under water in a world where outside sounds are muted to near-silence and outside visions are seen only in refraction and reflection. The next moment, I emerge into the full clamor of the external life. "It's a metaphor for human existence," I thought. "The internal life and the external life and the need for balance between them."
Now, admittedly, as a writer, I may be more prone to these musings of metaphor-meets-mysticism. But I think it's built into our human consciousness. If it weren't, we wouldn't have so many words for it - metaphor, allegory, symbolism, parable. We seek for inner meaning in the world around us.
And why not? The dance between the tangible and intangible, the visible and invisible is at the core of some of the most awe-inspiring aspects of our universe - from atoms to sound waves to the human mind. Perhaps it's not only inevitable that we should seek meaning in the physical world. Perhaps it is imperative.