Editor’s Note: This is a creative piece written by fellow of The Restoration Institute and creative writer, Benjamin Case.
Think about the last time you were SURPRISED!
Some people live for surprises; others dread the mere thought of them. Surprises always have expectations attached within them for the person manufacturing the surprise. For those being surprised, the expectations come after they experience the surprise itself. The common denominator is that we all have expectations.
When was the last time you pondered the existential implications of the ampersand?
That’s what I thought. Next to never–until this very moment.
Other than its neighbors “6,” “7” and “8,” which see “&” next door everyday on billions upon billions of computer keyboards across the globe, you and I probably have not considered its life other than the occasional search for it on your keyboard. Nonetheless, the ampersand is a symbol, and symbols represent something. Do you believe that everything possesses symbolism, or is this subjective in nature, left up to the eyes of the beholder?
Is it possible to be surprised by the ampersand?
The ampersand, like many things in life, is a symbol that leads to something. It is the key to unlock buried treasure. So why, you ask, am I bothering you about the existential symbolism behind the ampersand?
The definition of “ampersand,” according to the Oxford dictionary, is “the sign ‘&,’ standing for ‘and.’” Pretty logical indeed. Quite straightforward. We often see the ampersand in titles of ownership, business names, abbreviations, symbolism and so on, all acting as the literal placeholder “and.” I think we have an unfortunate tendency in our modern culture of overlooking the hidden diamond in the rough because we are fixated on the sea of gold.
I wonder if it would surprise us if the ampersand is one of those diamonds lost in the sea of gold where we are swimming.
As the new year is in bloom and just beginning, so many of us have massive expectations for what the year could be. We make fresh resolutions, better goals, restored hopes and renewed dreams that we hold to at varying levels of commitment. These can be noble pursuits and aspirations, but oftentimes our Western culture tends to make most objectives self-focused. This is paralyzing to the symbolism of the ampersand. The ampersand communicates “and,” standing for an ongoing continuation of something. The symbol bares a projectory in a certain direction that leads to something. Let this phrase sit for a moment:
“Continuation in rhythm.”
The symbolism of the ampersand is the continuation of rhythm. Rhythms can be good or bad, depending on the person orchestrating them. As we consider a new year with its implications of trying to create a new and better self, what if we shifted our focus from expectations that we have of self-fulfillment to expectations of expansion of our own personal capabilities, coupled with greater expectations placed in God? What if we were willing to surprise ourselves as we are surprised by God? This combination is powerful enough to not just transform ourselves into the person we want to be, but it has the potential to change the world.
The problem is that we are unwilling to be surprised because of our lack of belief. Imagine a “you” that had the level of belief to be surprised by God. This not only would flip the script of your life but would bring about the truest resolutions and fullest dreams you did not know you longed for.
Turn your greatest hopes into greater rhythms: “I desire to love like I never have before this year, & in order to do that I must experience God’s love like never before this year.” The ampersand sets up the surprise of greater expectations than what we would have settled for in aiming to please ourselves.
The ampersand permanently has marked my imagination as well as my body. I have an ampersand tattooed on my right pinky finger. This tattoo is a constant reminder of the element of surprise to believe in “great expectations” for my life, including the greatest of expectations: those found in God.