The Power of Context
BY: Troy Murphy |May 2018
The surrounding context influences our conceptual understanding. Judgments of others often ignores the context.
A few years ago, I posted a quote from Helen Keller, "Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
When I originally shared this quote, the conveyed lesson was that friendship, even during struggles, was better than loneliness. A reader commented, “I think it is better to stick with your values than abandon values for the sake of friendship.” I re-read the quote under this new context, noting the interpretation of the responder, and seeing that the words could easily infer we should abandoning virtues to stick with a friend; as Sandy abandoned her old friends to follow Danny and in his friends in the classic production Grease. My previous knowledge of Helen Keller created the context for my interpretation. Once I bonded with my meaning, my thinking stopped, never considering other possible intended meanings.
We constantly formulate complex meanings from the fragments, drawing from context and personal histories. Any quote, belief or judgment needs further examination. Simple ideas bend and form to fit existing frameworks of belief. We often miss messages, blinded by our own biases.
"Any quote, belief or judgment needs further examination. Simple ideas bend and form to fit existing frameworks of belief. We often miss messages, blinded by our own biases."
I don’t present eternal truths. I’m not sure if I know enough of the truth to provide more than probing thought. I hope the FLS articles encourage momentary questioning, stepping to the side to view from an alternate perspective, stimulating thought. These practices that broaden views enrich our lives, not a magical solution to more happiness; but curiosity increases that wisdom that subsequently invites greater happiness.
Life often appears chaotic. Constant streams of information flail at our senses. Several ‘experts’ claim the exclusive knowledge; they uncovered the meaning of life. Yet others’ claims contradict, crying other determined meanings a deception. We are tossed and turned with uncertainty.
Khalil Gibran succinctly stated, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” I don’t self-proclaim to be a teacher of such wisdom, but I hope my continued efforts through writing and research encourage more flexibility and less dogma—a greater openness to the complexity of life.
This is my hope, my purpose; not to debate unknown truths but to challenge the mind heuristics that strangle honest examinations. My articles do not distribute truths contained in a rhyming jingle, or that dazzle with a catchy quote. but I ask for an open the mind to expand possibilities, experimenting with skills that may improve your lives. Our personal truths will be exposed by manner we choose to live our lives.
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