To write…

…it seems to me (or so, I believe) is to engage the majestic, maddening risk of having my words misinterpreted by the reader.

In this (even more, it seems to me), there is that greater risk of enduring the rebellion of the inherent independence of the words themselves.

They, yes, formed and fashioned in the cauldron of my simmering creativity – yet, once set free, incapable of being constrained by me – rushing toward others’ open, searching eyes, fly through the labyrinthine corridors of their minds. And there, they alight wherever they choose in the vast provinces of others’ varied understandings.

In this (still more, it seems to me), there is that grander risk of all: self-discovery. For, as the Apostle contends (and so, I believe), I peer in a mirror dimly. Thus, when I write, I oft discern that I did not (could not) know (surely, not fully or, perhaps, better said, surely, fully unknowing) what I intended until the words are seen and given meaning through the eyes and minds of others.

And through the maze, this haze of risk, I behold this clearest reward. For when the reader interprets, saying, “This is what these words say to me,” it signifies that one has honored and humbled me by lending the fullness one’s self – thought and feeling, reflection, recollection, and perception – following my leading to arrive at the end of personal meaning, which is only a beginning should the reader again take up my words, whether adopting them as one’s own or in reading them anew and arriving at still another (“Aha!”) understanding.

© 2021 PRA

Endnote: “I peer in a mirror dimly” is my paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13.12 (For now we see in a mirror, dimly…Now I know only in part), which I interpret as the Apostle Paul’s witness to the human limitations of knowledge about life and self and God, especially in relation to the fullness of understanding that is the gift of eternity.

#towriteistobearonesselfandsoul #towriteistoshareonesselfandsoul #towriteistoriskselfdiscovery #towriteistorisk #riskandreward

3 thoughts on “To write…

  1. Paul,

    You articulate a truth that to my way of thinking gets far too little notice among those of us who spend most of our lives among words – either taking them in or putting them out. At the point where I express words they have traveled not more than half-way on their journey to meaning. My words falling on anything except eyes or ears (or perhaps fingertips for those adept in Braille) are meaningless. Only when another being – usually human, sometimes canine, more rarely feline or other species – takes in my words and they are transmitted to a second brain can there be any possibility of meaning or communication. And who knows, as you eloquently point out, what transformation happens to my intended meaning when the words are processed by that second brain, whose experience, learning, frame of reference, language, and attitudes must all be plugged into the interpretation the words receive?

    Reading and listening are in their way as much a necessary part of the creative process of language as writing and speaking. The moods, colors, prejudices, and nuances that filter and enhance received words can’t be underestimated or ignored. I think this may account, at least in some measure, for how awkward and difficult communication can be among humans. But I also think the unequivocal mutuality of the process that is at the heart of all communication speaks to the fact that we are all necessarily bound to each other. We humans are unified and dependent in ways that we cannot escape. No one of us simply speaks or writes and can reasonably expect that to be the end of it. No, we must, whether we like it or not, entrust what we say or write to others to receive as they will or must.

    All the words ever produced must combine with another’s interpretation, with their own unique experience, knowledge, and feelings, to have any meaning at all outside the producer’s own brain. I suppose this is what the story of the tower of Babel is all about, and I think we ignore that phenomenon too much and dismiss it too lightly. In order to do much of anything in this world, we must contend with and rely upon each other and each others’ experiences and good will. It’s right there in our communication; we must trust someone other than our singular selves. What a message that conveys! It might even be said to be a kind of gospel!

    Thank you, Paul, for prompting my thinking with your words. They were rich and meaningful when they left your keyboard, and I thank you for them and for the ideas, memories, connections, and feelings they inspired in me as I read them.

    Gratitude and love to you,

    Karen

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  2. Paul & Karen!!

    I soooooo loved what you both wrote!! I read them both several times!! I think as I get older I have to read everything a few times just to “get it”. The first time I read it I just read it quickly. The second time I read it, if I know the author I read it as if the writer is reading it to me and I can hear their voice! Then I finally read it to try to understand what the reader actually means. Even with all that I still seem at times to misinterpret what the writer meant!

    I love reading what other people write, and as you pointed out Paul I’m honored to do so! I also sometimes wonder what words I’d choose if I had been the writer.

    To write… our words just hanging out there waiting for someone to interpret them!

    Much love to you both!!

    Loretta

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  3. Always, Karen and Loretta, you have my thanks for reading, reflecting, and then responding to my writings.

    Two immediate comments…

    Karen, these words of yours especially resonate deeply within me — “I also think the unequivocal mutuality of the process that is at the heart of all communication speaks to the fact that we are all necessarily bound to each other. We humans are unified and dependent in ways that we cannot escape. No one of us simply speaks or writes and can reasonably expect that to be the end of it. No, we must, whether we like it or not, entrust what we say or write to others to receive as they will or must.”

    For I constantly am conscious of what I consider to be our inescapable existential human matrix of our individuality (whether that be understood as one person, one tribe or clan, one family, one neighborhood, one community, city, state, nation, or region) and communality. And in this my moment-by-moment awareness, I am keen to discern when I suffer the temptation of selfish self-interest to the extent that I ignore or otherwise refuse to acknowledge the reality of another (“the other’s”) point of view, especially when it varies greatly from mine own…

    Thus, your point, again resonates. For I ask, when, oh, when can and will our grasp of the commonality of our humanity trump our ever-present impulses to live and move and have our beings for the sake of our own selves? (The current and raging consternation between vaccination and anti-vaxxers raises this question afresh for me.)

    And, Loretta, as for “misinterpret(ing) what the writer meant”, I come ’round again to my sense, which I sought to illumine in this post, that often enough I discover later what I intended when I wrote whatever it is that I wrote and only after reflecting on a reader’s (or a hearer’s) response. Thus, often enough, upon reading or hearing a respondent’s comments, I say, “Aha! That’s truly what I meant, but did not write/say it well!” or “That’s what I wish I had intended!”

    Love you two, each and both, always and in all ways,
    Paul

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