Clarity round 2: General meaning vs. specific meaning

October 8, 2007

Here’s another metric on our continuum. Bear with me as I’m going to work through some partly-formed ideas out here. I’m asking myself the question, I guess … so far, we’ve mostly looked, I think, at the characteristics of the didactic side, and defined the other side mostly as an absence of the didactic. Though of course we realize that the other side is marked by characteristics, I thought it might be interesting to talk about what exactly those are … so … here’s one.

When I think about movies or music, one thing that seems to also match the “didactic” side of our continuum (although in the case of Minor Threat, we might question how didactic that truly is) is that these works seem to be written to a specific time and place. Perhaps they could have relevance for all time, but that is not their purpose. On the other hand, works that are on the other side of the continuum, we might say “speak to the human condition” or, to put it another way, address the meaning of life, inform us about what people are like, and teach us not just about a particular subject, but how to live in general. Now, of course, we might say that Pilgrim’s Progress is valid for all Christians, and that people need to be Christians to live right, but … that’s not really my point. It’s still a very specific message to a specific section of the Church Universal. And I’d be the first to admit that Minor Threat doesn’t exactly carry a message for all people at all times.

Take “The Natural” for instance. This is not a movie about baseball. It could have been. It is in part. But really, it is a baseball movie about life, the human condition, redemption, and what it means to be a man. Or “The Shawshank Redemption”. Although closer to the “specific” end of the continuum than “The Natural”, this is not primarily a movie about prison life; it’s a movie about hope.

So, please chime in with your comments on that concept. In the meantime, here’s another tie-back to our clarity vs. obscurity discussion:

Co opt the intended
To fabricate ascendancy
Side step, scintillating
Social reform or revolution

Condemning yourself to death by proxy
It culminates in the evil-destined charge corollary

Distort, amplify, scintillating you’re so
Cordoned off, divide the resolution
To drown the consciousness

Imperially established, collective ethics
You’ve prescribed an
Anti – bi – otic, intolerate, enmesh

Sterilize and wither
It culminates in the evil destined charge corollary

The martyrs’ blood cries out
From the soil of your so-called Fatherland
You’re emblematic of what you castigate,
Condemning yourself to death by proxy
Unholy alliance with the powers of darkness
Sealed with a kiss
Your timidity belies that you’re
The hated interloper

This song can also be found on myspace (“Unholy Alliance”). So, with this piece I have a very specific meaning in mind, but my intention was to have a general meaning that transcends the specific, as well. The question is: is the specific meaning readily discernable? Is the general meaning readily discernable? If the general meaning is clear, is that enough?


2 Responses to “Clarity round 2: General meaning vs. specific meaning”

  1. dslavich Says:


    My guess:

    Specific: USA/US church’s lack of action in Darfur.

    General: lack of action on behalf of the oppressed.

  2. Ben Says:

    General is correct, specific is not.

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