There was a time, I seem to recall, when a handshake was worth more than a legal contract. The hand-shakers had reached an agreement; they would stick to it, come hell or high water.
But in literal fact, a handshake is simply a momentary meeting of palms.
The example of a handshake came up during a discussion of a blog posting by Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who heads the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. Rohr wasn’t writing about handshakes, of course. He was writing about how people read the Bible. Or any other sacred text.
“While biblical messages often proceed from historical incidents, the actual message does not depend upon communicating those events with perfect factual accuracy,” Rohr suggested.
“Spiritual writers are not primarily journalists… Scripture can be understood on at least four levels: literal meaning, deep meaning, comparative meaning, and hidden meaning.”
He explained, “The literal level of meaning doesn’t get to the root and, in fact, is the least helpful to the soul and the most dangerous for history."
It occurred to me that the same approach might enrich our understanding of everyday events. Like handshakes, for example.