Friday, February 20, 2009

A Chicken, Chard and the Chimpanzee Cartoon

Perusing my notebook diaries today, you know the kind, fast hot scribbling from some odd position in bed; I found an entry back in July 2007 where I was thinking about starting a web log. So apparently I thought about it and then waited another 18 months before venturing into the public sphere.

In any venue, I question the value of my writing, it takes a lot of time and writing feels dangerous. If I write without restraint it could create liabilities. If I write with restraint, I fear a lack of meaning and vitality. I shrug off writing for periods of time but I always come back to the act as I find that writing is, in and of itself, a valuable process. Perhaps to write with restraint is the benefit. Pen in hand, aware I am creating a document, as the ink begins to flow, a signal touches me, to curb myself, refine my thoughts, check my assessments of dynamics and interactions. I experience a primal benefit flowing right out of my pen.

Yes, writing definitely helps me work things out, answer a few of my questions and usually stimulates more of them. Today while cooking, I realized the hive of thoughts buzzing me was going to require some writing. It's this chimpanzee business. I always hated it when former President George W. Bush was referred to as the “Chimp in Chief ” and I also don't like the recently published, protested and apologized for cartoon showing a dead chimpanzee and two policemen, captioned "They will have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." So here I am, having finished chopping the onions, stuffing chard leaves and popping a chicken in the oven, writing in my web log.

The cartoon is said to connect two current news stories. It wouldn't occur to me to connect the tragic story of a wild animal who was used and retired by the advertising world, coddled by a person deeply attached to him, sickened by a disease, fed psychiatric meds, who ends up being shot dead to end his brutal attack on a visitor, to the on-going painful economic meltdown and the 647 page bill that just moved through the American House of Congress. They are both hard stories. I didn’t get Cartoonist Delano’s expressed intended message or Critic Sharpton’s interpretation. I just didn’t like it. I understand that pasquinades, satires and lampoons have long been with us and are an accepted part of the larger conversation, but I’m too hungry for civil discourse to find much meaning in them.

I wonder how broad the public conversation on meaning and intent will become? Is the person who created the cartoon responsible for its meaning and is its meaning related to his intent? Or is the cartoonist responsible for the interpretations others make of his cartoon? If one factors in that intent and full-orbed consciousness are not always linked and that the hulk of unintended consequences is often shadowing us, it seems the more ambiguous an offering is in any particulars, the more room one has left for each and any viewer to attribute their own particulars of significance to the meaning of any creation. In linking these disparate events, Mr. Delano left considerable room for confusion and misunderstanding.

So I cooked the chicken too long while I was writing out these thoughts, but it helped me to write them down. I think in any form, especially in these days of global information sharing, one should work hard to be civil and to share their intended meaning with an understanding that they will have a certain degree of responsibility for the effect of their work on society. A good part of communicating is anticipating some of the myriad meanings any offering will have to others.

No wonder I am blog shy, a bit of a chicken. Well, I'm going to try and keep these civil communication hopes in mind. I hope you will too.


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