Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Feel Good

"I feel good."
It's such a simple statement; three little words.  Surely, you know what I mean.  But do you really?

You probably think that I mean that I feel content or happy, or perhaps even joyous or ecstatic.  But let's take a closer look.

The "I" is pretty self-explanatory, unless you want to fly off into the never-never land of difficulties in philosophically and psychologically defining the "self."

But from there, all bets are off.  Both "feel" and "good" have plethora of meanings to choose from, such that that simple three word statement could mean:
  • I am happy/content.
  • I am joyous/ecstatic.
  • I am ethical.
  • I am beneficial.
  • I am functional.
  • I am healthy.
  • I am confident in my present abilities.
  • I have the ability to sense benevolent forces.
  • I do sense benevolent forces.
  • My ability to receive tactile sensations is functioning.
  • I am better in my ability to receive tactile sensations than other people.
  • I am pleasing to touch.  (My personal favorite!)
And that's just a sample!  You could probably come up with at least another 5-10 definitions for that statement.  The obvious truth is that you need context to gain understanding.

In the world of text, context becomes super-critical, because you can't rely on spoken tones, body language, gestures, etc. to enhance the meaning of the message.  All you have are words.  And, if you're lucky, you have some framing circumstances described in the text.

For example, if I told you that I was at the doctor's office when I said "I feel good," then you are more likely to be correct in thinking that I was referring to my health in general.  Unless, of course, that doctor had performed a reconstructive surgery of the nerves in my hand after an accident, because in that case "I feel good" may have more to do with tactile sensation.

Yet when we are devoid of context, we all bring our own contexts to the table to parse out meaning.  What is usual?  What fits our paradigm?  Based on those assumptions, we find a meaning.  Our confidence in that meaning will typically be directly proportional to how well it aligns with our world view.

That brings us to a subject near and dear to my heart:  Biblical prophesy.  As a rough number, I would estimate that 95% of Old Testament prophesy is actually very easy to understand because there is a ton of supporting context, including many prophesies that overlap in scope and thereby confirm their meanings with different verbiage.

What makes Old Testament prophesy difficult to accurately discern is coming to it from the mindset of Christianity.  If you cast off or ignore the Jewish historical roots, then confirmation bias sets in and (even worse) the original meanings of the words are plucked from their context and realigned with the Christian vision of the world.  I know this from personally reading the Bible without an assumption that Christianity was its end goal.  That's why I had the confidence to issue the open challenge regarding Christian Prophesy.

Context is meaning, and I feel good about saying so.

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