The Uncertainty of Meaning
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The Uncertainty of Meaning • Posted: Nov 08, 2017 11:07:17Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Clearly, one person’s meaning is hardly ever completely understood or matched by any other person’s sense of that meaning. Context has a great deal to do with the sense made of any intended meaning. Context provides sense for the sender of any specific message and a completely different context implies meaning for the receiver of that message. Even if current external context is largely shared between interlocutors, internal contexts can and do differ significantly. Education can differ. Language experience can differ. Life experiences can differ. Goals, values, and aspirations can differ. Fatigue can factor in, as can a sense of urgency. At times, it may seem miraculous that anything of significantly deep meaning gets communicated between humans at all.

Long time ago, disturbed by the above thoughts, I decided that at least a photograph could provide indisputable reviewable external context for subsequent conversation. I believed straight-forward photographs could be taken as evidence: unadulterated, unmanipulated, unstaged, unrehearsed, honest evidence of things. I also believed that even if different viewers brought differing internal contexts to the task of interpreting the meaning of such images, further research and discussion could largely erase ambiguity and one singular interpreted meaning shared amongst most viewers would eventually come into being. I had no faith that any eventual interpretation of my photographs would inevitably match what I took to be their meaning, but I was rather certain some single interpretation could and would result. My hope was that in making what I believed to be photographs pregnant with meaning, at least some set of viewers, maybe not even contemporary viewers, would eventually come to appreciate their inherent meaning.

Many years have passed. Today, I am a bit less certain that any single set of photographs of mine will eventually hold any significant meaning for any future set of viewers. My doubt comes from experiencing the great dissipation of significance for any single item of evidence or event amongst subsequent generations of my fellow humans. Significance, it seems, is reinvented anew within each succeeding generation. Context is entirely transformed and very little is held over intact. I persist, however, and probably will until my end.

As for the above images, I can truly understand the desire for peace and comforting nature far away from stress and strife. One does not need much. And many do just fine with not very much at all. That is, of course, quite different from having nothing at all. The current series of articles by the Associated Press on homelessness on the streets of our west coast provide ample evidence of that fact. On the other hand, one does not need billions to find peaceful harmony within nature and amongst one’s fellows. Unfortunately, there will always be at least one aspiring billionaire trying to sell you on the idea that you can easily do with less. Unsaid, of course, their secret wish that he or she might have more. Don’t fall for it. One, two, or three fake pink flamingos will not and cannot bring the same satisfaction, nor hold the same inherent meaning, for all.

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014