Sansaku: Associating on Touchstones
I doubt if Stevenson thought of the touchstone as a symbol when he was writing it, anymore than we think about symbols when we’re dreaming them. But the idea of a touchstone can become a touchstone if we go looking for them.
I immediately liked the story. It appealed to my fancy and sparked my imagination. As a child, I loved to hunt for arrowheads, crystals, and hidden treasure. It’s what I dreamed about. I didn’t know back then about the journey within or the symbolic truths we sought.
And I remember when I started looking in the mirror. Mirrors are most definitely touchstones and a closely related symbol. So are lenses. We use them to make telescopes, microscopes and cameras. Words like focus and attention come to mind, and how they clarify and craft experience, even the way we remember.
I’m associating, of course, and now I’m jumping to reflection. It’s another symbolic word that’s close to the dynamics of perception, we have reflective consciousness. The problem comes from our extremely limited and relative point of view. What would it be like to see from a wider perspective? And how can we see what’s withinsides?
That’s what the touchstone seemed able to do. It gave insight into a more inclusive inner truth, like mirror neurons.
I’m reminded of something Helen Fisher said. She was speaking at the college on her book, The Anatomy of Love. We use both verbal and nonverbal language as a touchstone. We can instantly tell if someone is nice or not, interested or bored. A single word or glance will do.
When I was in second grade, I remember my teacher telling me, “I want to talk to your mother.” I asked her, “Why?” Sure I had done something wrong. She said, “It’s your language.” Again I was worried I’d done something wrong. Mom called her that night.
When she hung up the phone, she laughed. “Mrs. Sheets only wanted to know what we talked about at home.” For someone who acted out and hated school, I was fairly well educated.
I can easily hear myself say, “There is nothing so monsterous that I cannot think it of myself.” While I probably picked it up from my brother, it was definitely a touchstone of sorts.
When I began to study psychology and dreams, I went looking for touchstones and put them in my journal. It seems that both dreams and a journal are reflections on reflections, and we can reflect on them.
When I analyze a dream or symbol, I spend time on the feeling tone and mood. The level of understanding and emotional development has a lot to do with our touchstone, how we mirror and experience reality. Touchstones can be warped and damaged.
The ring of power in Tolkien’s trilogy was a dark and dangerous touchstone. When Frodo finally turned it on himself, he was ashamed and it changed him. When he handed to Galadriel, she was relieved to have passed the test. One never knows.
She had her own touchstone, the famous mirror. Like the elder son’s pebble, she knew how to use it. It’s like stringing the bow.