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"Not a problem for any of us, but a feature of us all instead."

The truly clueless seem stuck on literal meanings, as if any word could be delivered without nuance or subtext, when every utterance comes cloaked in some sort of ambiguity. It's a wonder anyone can ever communicate anything to anyone else. Different people employ different encoding tactics some of which instantly impart meaning while others only begrudgingly disclose it. While I might never reliably interpret the contents of any book by its title, considering the many elements present on the cover often helps me feel as though I do understand what I stoop to pick up off the shelf. The design says more than the title, but without words. The designer chose the color for its reliability in inducing a certain attraction within the prospective reader. I might identify a thousand interacting elements there, each sufficiently ambiguous to leave me either wondering or certain. Taken together, these design elements make a statement beyond, beneath, and behind what the title might impart. All communication seems to work like this.

On days where my awareness seems especially tuned in, I might consciously catch one in a hundred or a thousand of these cues.
I focus upon whatever I focus on, which seems to tune out all I'm not focusing upon, though the Musac® I never consciously register still seems to have its way with me. When I enter a shop, ten thousand cues assault me. I might be looking for nothing more special than a can of ordinary beans, but the surroundings might tell me everything except where to find that can of beans. Sounds, smells, the visual yelling of end-cap displays, each send my mind wandering off point. The ambiance informs me whether this place welcomes my presence or discourages it. Mostly, the bigger the shop the more hostile it seems to me. Others revel in the animosity there. I feel afraid while others feel as though they're entering their old home place.

I make my meanings more or less instantaneously. Later, I might decide to reconsider, but a sense of knowing invades me wherever I go, whatever I do. I might not so quickly understand why I draw my conclusion, but in that moment, meaning will seem clear. I think mine a curious response, though I understand that it's not in any way unusual or exceptional. Most everyone senses a fairly immediate knowing, but how could this sense be reliable, given what we all know about the inherent ambiguity of the signals we receive? Any experience could impart a thousand perfectly believable meanings, yet I reliably settle on a single one as if I'd effortlessly distilled the essence rather than simply an essence. How much more clueless could I possibly be?

Later, I might ruminate, wondering what was "really" going on there. I am a great one for missing the hidden meaning, for misreading the subtext, and for drawing otherwise unwarranted conclusions. One of my ethical responsibilities insists that I maintain an awareness of my inevitable blindness, a Conscious Blindness, if only to remind myself that my first impression need not be my last one, and that every word, every perspective floats, as we all do, in situationally impenetrable ambiguity. Had I lacked the ability to more or less immediately interpret, I would have long ago frozen in wonder and indecision. But had I insisted upon holding onto my initial interpretations, I could have never learned anything. I'm still learning.

I exist tenuously as Hell. I teeter atop meanings I hardly know I've made. I read minds every bit as ineptly as everyone else and still believe that I'm generally understood and that I understand, when, of course, I mostly don't. Perhaps we appear so clueless simply because we are clueless, still working too hard to cover up this one inescapable and glaringly obvious fact: not a problem for any of us, but a feature of us all instead. I figure that I cope rather well, considering all that I cannot possibly perceive and all that I consider myself understanding. This world seems too impossibly filled with meanings for any of us to ever make true sense of anything.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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