I posted this picture over the weekend, and I realized the power of visual images to spark conversation. Mari’s husband asked me why I had posted it, and after I clarified that it was Potamus (and not somehow a picture of me), I was struck with the thought that I often put things out into the world (writing, photos, words) that have a definite meaning to me, but may be misinterpreted or misunderstood by others. Or maybe there’s room for both my interpretation and someone else’s experience of my image to both be true and right at the same time.
It made me think of poetry, and how I loved the college classes where I had to buckle down and analyze a few lines of poetry, trying to figure out the word choice and how it intersected with history and the author’s life. And yet, when I write my own poetry, I am hardly so careful as to make sure I choose the word eggshell vs. white in describing that lady’s shirt. Though sometimes I am that careful, but how does the reader/listener know my intention fully when they bring their own thougths, life experience, emotions to the table?
The conversation about my child’s image, which I had taken in a moment of pure love, noticing that tiny little mole that dotted his neck (in contrast to the many moles that are all over Boof), my mind wandered to the thought that this is how I one day could identify his body if he were to die tragically. Maybe it was morbid, or practical, we argued a bit about it, but the exchange clearly showed different perspectives, neither right or wrong. I looked at that “morbid” detail of identifying a body by a little birthmark from a future-nostalgic motherhood place, the remembrance of his less-baby-more-little-man stillness as he sat on my lap in the sunshine watching TV and I stroked his little curls that look like mine did at that age. I don’t know what prompted him to comment on this particular picture (of the thousands I’ve posted), but I’m glad he did, because the dialogue and thought process made me take a tiny moment and examine it in light of all the things I do online (or in person, too).
It makes me wonder about every picture I post or text and the story that’s being told on the receiving end, or the intercepting end, or when you turn to your neighbor and say “hey look at this.” Maybe it’s my arrogance, or self absorbed way of living, but I often think that the way I intend a picture to be interpreted will be how it’s interpreted. But like the lines of poetry that I analyzed in college, we bring our own biases toward it, and meaning may be lost or changed or questioned, and it’s really a neat process if you think about it.
After college I took a communication class that detailed how miscommunications can form, and as she diagrammed Speaker A putting words into the universe, and Speaker/Listener B hearing and interpreting the word, it struck me that it’s really a miracle any of us can communicate effectively. Even recently in conversations with Boof, I said a word, that to me has a ‘standard definition,’ and we clearly were talking about different things, from different perspectives based on our gender, age, life experience, etc. It’s a really remarkable process to sit and sift and be vulnerable to get to the point where understanding occured.
That one image sparked a thousand words, a thousand questions. I might have posted it and forgotten about it, like I’ve done with the thousands of other images. But the dialogue brought me back, and almost like a meditation drishti point, I will think of that moment I thought how beautiful my child was, and how sad I would be to have to identify his body by that tiny little mole.