Tag Archives: the search for meaning

The self…as the Mona Lisa

IMG-20190411-WA0007.jpgThe iconic image of the Mona Lisa in the age of the smart phone now also includes visitors standing before her posing for selfies with her as their backdrop. The focus is not on the work of art, but on us, it has been so for almost a decade now. Is there then a difference between putting ourselves at the centre of famous art and us looking for ourselves in works of art?

When I prospect for meaning in a painting or a poem, sometimes just a bit, or a line or two call out to me, and the story of my life. Those bits become part of my very own bastardised biographical fallacy. Instead of trying to get to grips with the interpretations of the work of art, I am too busy looking for my ‘self’ in it. Critics were accused of suffering from the biographical fallacy when they picked out the author’s life story from their work of art, and not the product of their imagination.

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The skewed search for life’s meaning

2016-08-14_11-09-11When sentient beings search for meaning it often leads to gibberish. Markets and newspapers burgeon with spirituality columns, self-help books and religious cults that claim to tell you the meaning of life. Closer home, your own mainstream religious books claim to have an all-access pass to special meaning found nowhere else.

Extrapolating from religions, caste groups and race identities, individual humans will also find ways to explain whatever they do in the light of their own imagined virtue. Pattern-finding, an innate human faculty, can be employed in the cause of personal gain. We will extract seeming meaning from what appears to us as chaos. Ever watch a television show in a language you didn’t understand? Unable to translate as days pass you become familiar with the characters and a vague plot develops in your head. You find a way to understand what you really don’t mostly through inference. No proof is sought, most of any understanding arrived at is intuited. Literature has a kindred function with its allowance for interpretations, criticism and readings. Sometimes even a single line in a text of art can undergo myriad elucidations.

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