Those things that are open to more than one interpretation. They might have a double meaning. Or perhaps, they are unclear — or even inexact — for any number of reasons.
Equivocal. Arguable. Unclear.
Isn’t it all a little ambiguous? Isn’t everything open to more than one interpretation these days? No matter what it is?
I know I’ve told this story before. But here it is again for those who missed it. I’m not sure of my age when this occurred. We were learning to tell time in school. Those nuns, in their good, black, floor-length habits, standing in front of some analog clock, drawn on the chalk board. Little hands. Big hands. The tick, and the tock.
We came to the matter of segments of time. Specifically, the term, “quarter after the hour” or “quarter until the hour.”
Sister Eunice claimed this specified segment was 15 minutes in length. I raised my hand politely. I then proceeded to argue my case. Strongly. “You see Sister Eunice, it is in fact, 25 minutes, and not 15.”
I knew that in the world of jaw breakers and licorice sticks, a quarter equalled 25 cents. Apparently, I had learned money before time. I strongly objected to her postulation that it might only be 15. I am not sure how long we went back and forth, but at some point, I found myself standing on a chair at the front of the room, staring at the wall clock directly above my head. I would remain there until I found the good sense to agree with that nun.
I’m not sure when I gave in, but I also had to stay after school and clean chalkboards. Probably for 25 minutes.
Regardless, as you can see, even the term “quarter” can be ambiguous. A quarter of one thing does not necessarily match up to a quarter of another thing. Call the sky blue, but sometimes it is pink, orange, gray, or even green. Sometimes it is Barney purple, depending on the sunset.
It all comes and goes that way. On this date today, I was reminded that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed back in 1953. They had been convicted of conspiring to pass secrets to the Soviets. Atomic secrets. They were put to death at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. The Rosenbergs professed their innocence until their very last breathing moments.
I think some of the evidence against them was ambiguous. But. There’s no taking that one back.
Ambiguity can come in many forms. In fact, uncertainty is probably the only certain thing in life. But however it comes to us, I think it is best to bend. To give. To see the possibilities and the interpretations.
For none of us are perfect. Which means sometimes we are wrong. And in those moments of considering the possibilities, we may find a great surprise in learning something new. Like the hands of the clock, it all keeps going round and round. Twenty five minutes at a time.
“The ideal art, the noblest of art: working with the complexities of life, refusing to simplify, to “overcome” doubt.”
― Joyce Carol Oates
“If you accept life in all its fullness and ambiguity, it’s not complicated; it’s only complicated, if you don’t accept it.”
― Marty Rubin
“One should use common words to say uncommon things”
― Arthur Schopenhauer