THE PHOENIX PARADOX
Updated: Oct 22
SPONSORED CONTENT FOR : UNFILTER THAT LENS
Growing up, I did not read a lot of fantasy/fictional books. I have always preferred non-fictional stories or at least factually accurate representations of the past. If they did not physically exist, then what was the point of trying to escape reality by reading what (I believed) was utter nonsense?
I was not at all interested in the setwork books that we were forced to study at school. Books like, Gulliver’s Travels. Was I seriously meant to get excited about the story of a man stranded on an island? An Island inhabited by a large population of mere pint-sized people? And what was worse still, was I to believe that these tiny people were able to take down and control this ‘GIANT’ of an individual?
In time it became clearer to me that I needed to stop interpreting the words of a story in a one dimensional and, at times, naïve and literal sense. I needed to train, then allow my brain to ‘read between the lines’ to decipher the deeper meaning of so many misinterpreted stories. The desire to change the way I read began when I met my wife. After completing high school, she studied the publications of some of history’s greatest writers, poets and playwriters. When she mentioned the author, Jonathon Swift and how exceptionally well written his book, Gulliver’s Travels was, I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
‘’What do you mean?’’, I enquired, adding that I saw it as nothing more than a long-winded children’s fantasy.
This was the moment she took the opportunity to unlock my mind, opening it wide enough to understand the ‘story BEHIND the story.’ She explained in detail how I needed to become aware of WHEN it was written, WHO it was written by, who the AUDIENCE were and WHY it has been so well accepted as a literary masterpiece. While this made almost no sense to me, I was taken on an adventure of how the book contained deeper layers of political and social commentary, pertaining to the time in which it was written.
As Chat GPT explains it…’
‘’In essence, "Gulliver's Travels" is a multifaceted work that uses its fantastical settings and adventures to delve into complex themes of human behaviour, societal shortcomings, and the nature of power.
This ignited a long harboured desire of mine. The need for clarity and explanation. I needed to find out why the story of the Phoenix was so revered. So, I began to unravel the long and fascinating history of this mythical bird across different cultures and civilizations.
The earliest references of the bird can be traced back to ancient Egyptian mythology linked to the sun god RA. Moving on a few generations, in Greek mythology, the phoinix (spelt differently) meant crimson or red and in Greco-Roman mythology, it was also associated with immortality and the sun. Amazingly, the bird also appears in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures as the same mythical creature with regenerative powers. The Persians mentioned the Phoenix and described it a benevolent and wise creature, while the ancient Chinese regarded it as one of the Four Symbols of the constellations, representing the FIRE element and often paired it with a dragon. The Phoenix also appears in Arabian folklore while Christianity recognises its deep symbolism, representing resurrection and eternal life. . More recently, beginning with the Renaissance, the popular symbol of the Phoenix appears in numerous literature, art, and cultural references.
More recently, J.K Rowling invigorated the story of the Phoenix with the Harry Potter adventures. (In the ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, Dumbledore's pet bird, Fawkes, appears, burns alive and is then reborn again. )
The Phoenix’s story has been interpreted and adapted over thousands of years, but the central theme of death and rebirth remains constant throughout. Having researched the historical background, I decided to dig a bit deeper to uncover the allegorical narrative behind this inspiring, ageless bird.
The Allegory of the Phoenix
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “allegory” as a “story, picture, or other piece of art that uses symbols to convey a hidden or ulterior meaning, typically a moral or political one.” To the naked eye, the Phoenix represents pure beauty. But this aesthetic beauty is somewhat contradicted by the birds destruction by combustion for seemingly no reason at all. Having completed its destruction, this extraordinary COUNSELOR OF HOPE is effortlessly transformed into an admirable SYMBOL of encouragement. The Phoenix not only rises from the ashes of its complete dismantling, it continues with a proverbial clean slate upon the presentation of a new beginning.
As we delve deeper, we learn that beauty, being merely 'skin deep', is certainly a damaging/destructive literal interpretation of what a living being feels internally - in their soul. As human beings, for the most part, we use our eyes and ears to form an impression about anything new that we encounter n front of us, relying instinctively on these two of our five senses. While smell and taste are not relied upon as much, they are still used but to a lesser degree. With this in mind, it seems clear to me that one of our senses is missing from this initial process.
Arguably the sense least relied upon here is TOUCH.
It is the only sense that can never be turned off while at the same time it can be the sense most frequently misused and misunderstood.
A quote by David Linden, a neurobiologist and author in America states the following:
"There are two touch systems," Linden says. "One that gives the 'facts' — the location, movement, and strength of a touch — and we call that discriminative touch. But then there's the emotional touch system. This includes things like a hug from a friend, to the touch you got as a child . It's a completely different set of sensors and nerve fiber's that wind up in a different part of your brain."
So, according to this explanation, physical touch can create different sensations for different people. But what of emotional touch? I am talking specifically about spoken words and the impact they have on different people. Verbal, written or digital communication (think social media) can be uplifting but, is all to often, destructive.
This can be seen as a generalisation as we all interpret these communications differently, but what can't be questioned is the fact that WORDS HAVE A POWERFUL EMOTIONAL TOUCH FACTOR.
As humans, we are wired to judge others around us in order to avoid reckoning with potential feelings of inferiority, rejection, abandonment and shame.
In essence, we tend to pull others down in order to stroke our own egos. BUT - One can choose not to perpetuate this destructive cycle of judgment...
So what do we learn from this incredible bird?
1. What you physically see and interpret on the outside, is very often a gross misrepresentation of who that person is on the inside.
2. As people, we need to commit time and effort to truly understand and master the power of our third sense - TOUCH. As explained earlier, I am referring to a spiritual or figurative EMOTIONAL TOUCH...
3. We need to resist the urge to judge others.
4. In reaching an opinion of who someone is, we need the use of all five senses with a dash of humility thrown in for good measure.
A new beginning is something we all crave more than once in our lives. An opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. BUT WHY CAN'T WE BECOME REBORN AS OFTEN AS THE PHOENIX?
The truth is that YOU DO have the ability rise from the ashes of unbearable hurt and pain. Every one of us has the innate ability to reset and start from scratch. It is not easy and it differs from one to the next. While I am not qualified to offer advice, I do know that the ability to change is within you. Everyday you have an opportunity to start with a clean slate - like a reborn Phoenix - equipped to improve your life as well as the lives of those around you.
EVERY DAY IS YOUR (RE)BIRTHDAY.