Thursday, May 14, 2009

some thoughts about 'meaning'

There is a story about an interview with three baseball umpires about calling balls and strikes, which, if you know baseball at all, is one of the key parts to the game.

The first umpire, very new at his job said: "I call them like they are...."

He believed he was observing and correctly naming the 'meaning' of balls and strikes.

The second umpire, who had some experience, said: "I call them like 'I seem them'..."

He acknowledged that 'meaning' of balls and strikes depended, not on some objective reality, but on his opinion about what was a ball and what was a strike. He left room for his interpretation to influence what was the 'meaning'.

The third umpire, a hardened veteran of many years, said this: "They ain't nuthin' until I call them...."

He brings me to the place I want to be. "Meaning" is 'what we say it is'. We create and name 'meaning' in our language about it.

Does that mean there is no 'meaning' outside of what we call it? Well, the first two umpires give different possibilities. We can "know" meaning when we see it. We can interpret 'meaning' and hope to get it right. Each of us is somewhere on that spectrum.

But, just to ponder under your particular Castor Oil Tree--what if, what just if, "meaning" is only and always what we 'say it is'?

What if 'meaning' is not a function of what happens but what we 'say about' what happens? Where does that leave us....Ponder on....

Meaning doesn't exist until we language it. It isn't a ball or a strike until we 'say so'?

How may mourings and settled realities would that knock loose and over?

What DOES "meaning" mean?

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.