Click Map for Details

Flag Counter

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alarming Symbolic Significance

Sigmund Freud

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
  • This quote is often attributed to Sigmund Freud to show that even ... a famous psychoanalyst can admit that not everything has a profound meaning; However, no variation of this quote ever appears in his writings. It was probably falsely attributed by a journalist, long after Freud's death.
  • Actually, the quote is "Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe." The story goes that Freud was lecturing on oral fixation and one of his cheekier students asked about his ever-present pipe and Freud replied, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe. (
While it is silly, even stupid, to find profound meaning in everything, I nevertheless feel that the more dangerous course is to find profound meaning in nothing. While everything cannot be a preternatural sign and wonder, neither should we feel that it is common sense to strip everything of symbolic value. In fact, I think the common tendency today is to err on the side of literalism. For example, a current plague on the health of many Americans is obesity; yet it is surely an inadequate analysis of the issue to assume that obesity indicates excessive food consumption and nothing more. To find the source of every addiction as wiring constructs in the brain does not touch the full dimensions of what in some sense is a spiritual matter. Rank materialism when applied to everything results in seriously incomplete and flawed analysis – as in the circular conclusion drawn that the current economic crisis is due to economics. Surely it would behoove us when navigating through life to realize that each of us takes on symbolic significance. We are vastly more than the sum of our material parts. To view otherwise and to conclude that "a cigar is just a cigar – a man is just a man" is itself of alarming symbolic significance.

Print Page