Certainty is an Illusion

A colleague recently asked an unassuming but important question ... 

He asked what is the significance of Putin pointing towards his eye?

Here is my response ...
Context is everything ... which is often difficult, if not impossible, to discern from a single snapshot in isolation.

I mean, he could just be scratching his cheek, right?

It could be a conscious or unconscious gesticulation to reinforce his conversational words.

Or he could be sending a signal. To whom? To the priest walking beside him? To other members of his entourage hidden from the camera's view? To in-the-know members of the public who will see this image in the media?

When I look at this picture, it's like translating from another language, word by word, but not understanding how those words are linked to each other ... not knowing the grammar that helps to put those words into a meaningful context.

[An aside ... when I was studying Sanskrit, I had a terrible time figuring out if the elephant was IN the house or ON the house because prepositions were provided in a method unfamiliar to me. Those little words, in and on, were critical to building the correct context of the message.]

So ... what do we have? There's the two fingers (2 brothers?) Putin uses to point to his eye ... obviously to do with watching (but in what direction ... who is watching who, and WHAT are they to watch?)

But his eye is closed. Is that significant? Or did the photographer/video editor just capture that awkward moment of time by 'accident'?

Whose side is the photographer/videographer on? Is it their agenda to make Putin look good or bad? Or are they neutrally documenting the moment?

So many variables which you will NEVER know ... you need to use your non-logical mind, your non-rational mind, to make sense of it.

It is like translating an ancient document where there are huge missing pieces (academically called lacuna) and trying to make sense of it, trying to infer what message the document was intended to convey.
And you know how inaccurate those inferences turn out, right? Comically shallow and distorted reflections of earlier cultures.

Then there's a final piece to consider ... YOU!

Why are you looking? What are you looking for? What are your filters, your biases, your prejudices, your beliefs, your opinions?

Is your observation actually changing what you see? The Observer Effect can literally change what you observe. Would another observer see the same as you?

Be comfortable with knowing that you are seeing only the white-tips of the ocean waves which temporarily coalesce from the massive unobserved powerful forces that are in motion underneath the surface. 

You can take a snapshot of a particular white-tip to ponder on for as long as you like, but in actual time, the moment is gone, re-absorbed. 

Or worse ... you can spend an inordinate amount of your time trying to ponder the 'meaning' of someone else's snapshot of a white-tip. At least if YOU took the snapshot, you have subconscious recollection of contextual details ... such as weather, your impressions, WHY you took that snapshot ... what caught your attention, and what prompted you to regard it as significant?  When trying to make sense of a snapshot someone else took, you don't have that additional information.

You have NO idea what's really going on. Get that into your bones, and stop trying to nail things down. Certainty is an illusion.

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