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Could We Have Watered Down the Meaning of the Word “Icon”?

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An icon is a symbol we use in modern culture that stands for something well-known and contains qualities that represent something of greater significance. Throughout history, cultures have been inspired by their icons. Although originally used as symbols of the divine in ancient religions, our use of icons stretches far and wide into almost every aspect of our daily lives. Given the task of identifying an icon, it came to me that quite possibly we have watered down the importance of the word by misusing its meaning and giving way too many people or objects iconic status.

As a native New Yorker I am a jaded person. I am interested in lots and impressed by little. I believe I live in one of the greatest cities on earth.  Once a hilly, farm-infested island of small commercial and residential outcroppings, its land was stripped of every natural characteristic and redeveloped.  Before Central Park gained its iconic status as one of the most incredible parks in the world, it was magically and completely created by man.

Before the iconic Vanderbilt family created the iconic Grand Central Terminal, nothing like it had ever existed.  The Empire State Building, certainly one of the most iconic buildings in the world and once the tallest, was preceded by the iconic Trinity Church 150 years earlier for the same reason. New York’s existence has redefined how we live, build, trade, and evolve.  It’s a place where anything can happen and usually does.  As a hub of commerce, culture and everyday living New York City itself lives, breathes, grows and inspires.  Every year it seems to get bigger, brighter, busier and offer more.  To me the iconic phrase “In A New York Minute” says it all about my iconic place.

Ralph Lauren, Jonathan Adler and Chris Burch are all modern day icons of mine, as are DaVinci, Rothko and the Wright brothers of the past.  Certainly icons take many forms and come from all areas of life, but the real iconic and maybe ironic beauty here is that we all have the right to pick our own and decide for ourselves what inspires us.  Ask yourself, “What is an icon”?  If so many people and things can attain iconic status, then is the importance and meaning behind the word diluted by so many options?  Are we constantly searching for an icon to give us hope, answers or importance?  Are we devoid of looking deeper into our own souls to discover the icons within – those that are fundamentally only ours?

When faced with a hard situation, the thought of the iconic Depression-era workers striving to build the tallest building in America does not quell my nerves and give me the hope to carry on.  Fashion designers and “masters of the universe”, although inspiring, do not help much either.  These icons add a tremendous amount to the fabric of our lives but they don’t necessarily guide me.

As I get older my icons have become much more personal, private and meaningful. From infancy to my adult being, I have been guided, taught and inspired by many.  But no one icon has greater significance than that of my Mom.  No, my mom is not internationally recognized, has not created the newest trend or even made billions on Wall St.  In fact she has done much more.  My mom has inspired me to become a better person.  That in my opinion is the power of a true icon.

Yes, that’s right, I have stripped away the glamorous, modern connotation of the word icon and transferred it to my mother.  Clocking in at a towering 5’2” with frosted hair and fantastic jewelry, she means more, stands taller and shines brighter than the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty combined.

Discover the true icons that exist within your private world, and remember that today’s icons were once yesterday’s dreams and dreamers.  With a little wit and a little wisdom you might just uncover the inspiration you need in your own backyard to become one of tomorrow’s icons.


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Diary Dearest

Beth Hildner

 
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