This is not a lizard
Hat Tip to Renee Magritte for the title of this post.
You may be wondering what I’m talking about and why on a blog about writing am I showing you a picture of my pet Iguana; all in good time my friends, all in good time.
When Magritte called attention to the fact that his picture of a pipe was not the pipe itself but a representation of a pipe he was making a sound philosophical point. So, when you look at the picture of my scaly friend, you are looking at his image, at a point in time – even the image itself being rendered from binary code; artifice upon artifice to produce an illusion of a lizard.
Now when I tell you that it isn’t even a real lizard, but a 16″ resin replica of a lizard, we are one more step removed from the truth – the original lizard, which by now is most likely dead and ceases to exist at all. Immortalized in resin. The symbol of a lizard, displaying ‘lizardness’. We do not neutrally see the picture, instead we interpret it, possibly loaded with emotion – perhaps it even reminds you of a lizard that you have known; I can’t know this, I can only provide the stimulus in the form of the image and attempt to guide your response with my words.
In our own writing we also intend to paint pictures in the mind’s eye of our readers. The very best writing goes beyond the immediate story and symbolizes something else entirely – think ‘Animal Farm’.
You might have also wondered why do I have a large replica Iguana anyway – after all, it’s not everyone’s choice of home decoration. Well, this is a special resin lizard. Once on holiday, when my daughter was a little girl, she got it into her head to win me a prize at bingo. You know the sort of thing, where you get points for a line or house that you can convert into a gift like key rings or chocolate bars. The large lizard however required a lot of points and took her many hours over the course of the holiday to win it; as you can see, she succeeded.
So when I look at the resin lizard, I don’t see a plastic monstrosity; I see the proud little girl offering it up to me. A symbol of a different order. And priceless.