“Literalism is the lowest, least fruitful level of meaning.”

Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr once said, “Literalism is the lowest, least fruitful level of meaning,” and I can’t help but think he’s onto something. You see, we humans, in our adorable but misguided efforts to understand the world, often grab onto literalism like a life preserver. We treat words and events like they’re just what they appear to be on the surface, which is a bit like judging a book by its cover, or more accurately, by its title. And let’s be honest, who hasn’t been disappointed by a book titled “Great Expectations”?

But here’s the thing: clinging to literalism is like being obsessed with the icing on a cake. Sure, it’s sweet and (allegedly) easy to like (I disagree), but it’s hardly the main event. There’s a whole cake under there! A cake of complexity and depth, waiting to be explored.

True understanding, the kind that resonates in your bones and changes how you see the world, is hidden beneath the surface. It’s in the subtle, the nuanced, the kind of meaning that doesn’t jump out and say, “Here I am!” but rather whispers, “Come find me.”

Think of it like this: an artist doesn’t just slap paint on a canvas. Each stroke is a symphony of emotion. And a writer? They’re not just stringing words together, they’re weaving layers of meaning into every sentence. The real significance of everything, from a casual chat to the grand events of our lives, isn’t floating on the surface. It’s nestled deep below, like a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Literalism is just the tip of the iceberg, the bit that bobs above the water. But the real magic? It’s lurking in the depths, in the rich, intricate world of symbolism and profound meaning. So, let’s not be content with just skimming the surface. Dive in! Swim in the sea of the nuanced and the symbolic. That’s where the real treasures are hidden, waiting for those brave enough to look beyond the literal.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.