Thoughts on the ‘two interpretations’ – aspects of the interpretation of the world

Here’s a thought I had:

I often think of how I tend to feel that there are two interpretations of just about everything . . . not just one, as is often viewed.  Over the years this has given a unique outlook to things, seeing a ‘dual world’, so to speak.

A good example of this is when I once saw some storm clouds coming in.  I looked at it and as if two sides of me seemed to speak.  One side said that it was a mass of cold air, humidity, and such, that was going to drop all this precipitation, allowing the tree’s, and such, to grow, sounding scientific and practical in its outlook.  The other part of me said it was a great living thing – a ‘storm god’ – and that he was riding into the valley filled with fury and might.

Which interpretation is true?

Well, they both are.  At first I thought they were contradictory but over the years I began to see that they were actually complimentary.  In effect, these two interpretations really show two aspects or ways at looking at the world.  In other words, they are not just “two different interpretations” (such as Buddhist or Christian, or Monarchist or Communist, for example) but two interpretations that need one another and are, in actuality, a part of one another.  This means that there is a strong association and bond between these interpretations.  In actuality, they are ‘different sides of the same coin’, as they say, different aspects of the same interpretations.  Because of this, one of these interpretations, by themselves, is actually incomplete.

My experience, though, is that people do give these two interpretations but generally don’t realize it.  This is because they tend to be conscious of only one interpretation.  As a result, they are actually seeing that interpretation, often oblivious of the other interpretation.  This makes it so that we tend to have a ‘conscious interpretation’ and an ‘unconscious interpretation’.  Because of this, we only see half the picture and, in a sense, we hide the other interpretation from ourselves never fully becoming aware of it.  What this more or less means is that finding these two interpretations are part of creating a complete interpretation of the world.  Because it also entails a discovery of ‘unconscious interpretation’ it also helps create a better and unified sense of self.


The two interpretations are:

  1. Poetic interpretation. 
  2. Mechanical interpretation

These often seem like they would conflict and even contradict each other but they really don’t.  In fact, they are complimentary to each other.  They work hand-in-hand, helping one another.  Even when they do seem to contradict each other they actually are reflecting an association.

1-Poetic Interpretation

This form of interpretation is based, really, on imagination and symbology.  In that sense, it often has a ‘mythological’ quality.  That is to say, it is ‘poetic’.  It has a quality of ‘seeing more than there is’ or giving things a descriptive description.  As a result, it gives an ‘addition’ to life, making it more than it is.

Some of its traits include:

  • Imaginative
  • Creativity
  • Symbols
  • Dream-like
  • Fantasy-like
  • An additional quality – it adds to life

All these tend to involve a ‘play of passion’, of giving ones passion a means to express itself and be.  As a result, this aspect of interpretation tends to very much reflect deep inner feelings, often entailing intuition and insight.

Poetic interpretaion tends to develop meaning in things.  It hits to the ‘soul’ more.  As a result of this, ‘human life’ is rooted in a poetic interpretation of the world.  In fact, poetic interpretation is so important that it seems that fulfillment in life is often rooted in poetic interpretation.  That is to say, there is a direct relation of contentment in life with ability to give poetic interpretation.  This makes the poetic interpretation very important in life.

Unfortunately, some people, or ways of life, do not create or have the ability to create a poetic interpretation that well.  This tends to make life more ‘dreary’, meaningless, and such.  This shows that humanity is very much in need of ‘poetic interpretation’.

The ‘poetic interpretation’ often appears in many ways:

  • Religion
  • Customs and tradition
  • Culture
  • Mythology
  • Folklore
  • Art
  • An attitude or stance toward life

In other words, ‘poetic interpretation’ is a big part of culture and belief in a society.  Not only that, it has a spectrum from social (such as religious belief) to personal (an attitude a person has), giving it a broad range of manifestation.

As a general rule, pre-modern lifestyles tend to put great emphasis on the ‘poetic interpretation’.  In fact, its very prevalent in primitive societies and dominates much of their points of view and behavior.  It tends to be somewhat weak in more “advanced” modern societies.  In many ways, these societies suffer from a ‘poetic interpretation deprivation’, creating a drab view of the world, causing much unhappiness.

The ‘poetic interpretation’ tends to not have the ‘substance’ to “implant” us in the world, though, which is one of its failings.  That is to say, it is ‘dreamy’, ‘flighty’, and sometimes vague.  Because of this, it is open to variability and change which has caused many problems throughout the years, even creating a lack of any faith in ‘poetic interpretation’ at all (such as the lack of belief in religion).  In many ways, this has caused a ‘dilemma of poetic interpretation’ as it is now, in the modern world, as if hanging on a thread, unclear and vague, with no real substance and certainty.

2-Mechanical Interpretation

This form of interpretation is based in practical experience primarily.  Typically, it has the quality of ‘just getting things done’ or consist of the ‘know how’ to do things.  Mechanical interpretation allows you to live in the world.  This is its power.  If we lived without mechanical interpretation, in a purely ‘poetic interpretation’, we would probably behave much like a psychotic or schizophrenic.  As a result, one of the main powers of ‘mechanical interpretation’ is that it roots us in the ‘real world’.  It does this in a number of ways:

  • It allows us to live in the world.  It does this by giving us the ability to be practical and look at the world in a matter-of-fact way (that is, without the elaboration that is seen in the ‘poetic interpretation).
  • It allow us to “be” in the world.  By allowing us to live practically in the world we become a person-in-the-world.  We see ourselves as active participants in our association with the world.

Because of these, ‘mechanical interpretation’ has a quality of ‘seeing the world as it is’.  Not only this but ‘seeing it in a useful way’.  That is what it does primarily.  Though mechanical interpretation helps us live practically in the world it fails to give meaning to what we do.  As a result, a person who emphasizes this form of interpretation tends to be ‘dry’, almost dead-like, and often battling meaningless.  In many ways, ‘mechanical interpretation’ tends to create a robotic-like person, cold and indifferent, but able to survive in the world.

The modern world tends to foster a mechanical interpretation of the world.  In fact, the modern world so emphasizes the ‘mechanical interpretation’ that the ‘poetic interpretation’ is as if squashed by it.  This is one reason why the ‘dilemma of poetic interpretation’ exists.


As I said above, these two interpretations, in actuality, work together and compliment each other, much like the male/female, light/dark, etc.  There appears to be something like a ‘resistance’, though, that prevents this from happening in most people.  It would be more accurate to say that there is a ‘resistance’ to being conscious of both at the same time.  This condition is often caused by things such as:

  • The apparent conflict between interpretations.  Often, the two interpretations appear opposite or contradictory, making them seem incompatible.  Oftentimes, it creates a ‘logical dilemma’ that people find hard to reconcile.
  • The conflict between the frames of mind which creates each interpretation.  The two frames of mind can appear, at times, like two separate ‘self’s’ within a person.  These are so different that they, in a sense, create two types of ‘consciousness’, causing a conflict that is difficult to reconcile between the two consciousness, self’s, or frames of minds.  Because of this, it reflects a ‘dual aspect of the mind’.
  • The apparent conflict created by formal belief, philosophy, etc.  A good example of this is seen in the religion/science dispute which basically caused an illusionary opposition of poetic and mechanical interpretation, making them as if seem opposed to one another.  It created an ‘either/or’ stance that continues to this day.  But this is often seen in any formal belief, philosophy, and such.  This is, because once something becomes “formal”, it is accepted-as-fact socially.  But any formal belief is ‘linear’, meaning that it states a single stance typically.  As a result, formal belief, philosophy, etc. tends to create a stance of interpreting things from one perspective – the “fact” – which ends up preventing or hindering any other interpretation (see the “problem of “fact”” below).  This emphasis on only one interpretation or “fact” automatically makes the opposite interpretation an opposing interpretation, even though its not.

In general, these conditions tend to create an illusion of ‘only one interpretation’ that really isn’t there.

But we must remember that the two interpretations demonstrate two naturally appearing conditions in the interpretation of the world.  In that way, they demonstrate two aspects of the mind, that we really have two frames of mind.  Not only that, both are needed.  Humanity needs both a poetic and mechanical interpretation of the world in order live a meaningful useful life.  In fact, much of our association with the world involve these two interpretations.  Not having them can create problems or dilemmas.  For example, in doing a job you have to know certain things, requiring the ‘mechanical interpretation’.  This allows you to do these things but that’s all it is.  But seeing your job ‘poetically’, as some great art or tradition for example, gives it an additional quality, making it meaningful and worthwhile.  Either interpretation, by itself, creates a ‘constricted interpretation’ which creates, in a way, a ‘constricted person’.  But both together make a wonderful whole and a wonderful reality.  One of the great challenges in life, I think, is finding a balance between the two interpretations. 


Looking at the two-interpretations-as-one deliberately is not necessarily easy.  Its natural for us to tend to look at things from one stance only.  This is the result of the ‘tendency of one dominant consciousness’.  We tend to find the interpretation that suits our character and emphasize that interpretation, generally neglecting the other one.  This is what we become conscious of and is what most people do.  This is the ‘one interpretation stance’.   Other people will tend to alternate from one interpretation to another.  This is the ‘alternating interpretation stance’.  Typically, they are only aware of the interpretation their current stance (or consciousness) displays being completely oblivious of the other interpretation.  As a result, they bounce from one to the other, almost like two self’s alternating with one another.

Being able to see the two interpretations at the same time is a little bit more difficult and, it seems, requires a certain type of character as I don’t think everyone can do it.  I speak of this as the ‘two interpretation stance’.  This seems to entail:

  • Developing two frames of mind.  Each interpretation is a result of a certain frame of mind.  As a result, one has to be aware of these two frames of mind.  It often begins by becoming aware of each frame of mind when it appears and knowing what it is about.  Because of the tendency to ‘one interpretation stance’ the normal tendency is to ‘disregard’ the frame of mind that does not suit our character.  In other words, people just ‘don’t notice’.  Noticing this other frame of mind can be difficult and hard at times and take great practice.
  • Finding the association.  Knowing the two interpretations takes more than knowing the frames of mind . . . one must see the association between the two.  This may very well be the most difficult aspect of it.  Truly, to have the ‘two interpretation stance’ one must know the association.  Otherwise, they are just “interpretations”.  This means, basically, that one must see that both frames of mind, together, actually reflects ones “whole” character.  The frame of mind that is dominant just reflects it more and is what we are more “well-versed” or “comfortable” with.   Because of this, finding the association can entail great soul-searching and inner inquiry.

In actuality, developing the ‘two interpretation stance’ actually creates a ‘third interpretation’, one of association.  In other words, knowing the association changes the whole context of the other two interpretations.  They are no longer separate interpretations, but two interpretations with a meaning that connects them.  I often feel this ‘third interpretation’ is reflective of a self-knowing, which is one of the reasons why I think it is a good sign.  It is often something that is a result of a lot of inquiry and self exploration.


I once heard about a debate where they were trying to “prove” that Noah and the world flood actually existed.  There was a scientist and a religious person who sat and tried to prove their viewpoints.  I saw these things:

  • Both took things too seriously.
  • Both displayed a ‘one interpretation stance’.

Basically, both got ‘hung up’ with the problem of “fact” or, rather, what they considered “fact”.  When this happens the interpretation tends to change.  This is because interpretation and “fact” are not the same thing . . . interpretation is one thing but “fact” is something else altogether.  In the course of everyday life, and in reflection, one “interprets” the world.  It is a natural ‘impulse of interpretation’.  It often tends to have this casual layed-back quality to it.  Nothing is forced, nothing is enforced.  When any interpretation or conception is threatened or disputed we tend to turn it into “fact”.  It now becomes ‘solid’, ‘firm’, and definite.   In other words, the interpretation seems to alter when the ‘stance of the interpretation’ changes, turning it from “interpretation” into “fact”.  This can, and often does, dramatically alter its whole conception and point of view.

Once things become a matter of “fact” it now depends on what conditions one considers as “fact” that make it “fact”.  In other words, its no longer the ‘impulse of interpretation’ that determines it but its ‘justification under the conditions that make it “fact”‘ that matters.  The quest is no longer to interpret but to make definite.  When this happens it removes the original ‘impulse of interpretation’ from its source and meaning, as if by disjointing it.  What this more or less means is that ‘debating things’ is often destructive to interpretation.  I have often felt that much of the debate, at least in Western history, over religion, belief, philosophy, science, etc. has actually done more damage than not.  What it has done is actually distort interpretation.  Everything has become a matter of making things ‘definite’, ‘proven’, and such.  The natural ‘impulse of interpretation’ has largely been squashed by this.

In my opinion, when something becomes “fact” it becomes distorted.  In other words, the natural “impulse of interpretation” is the natural understanding of the world by humanity.  It is what appears naturally and casually.  Because of this, the disputes, challenges, arguments, etc., throughout history, have actually created a distortion of interpretation.  Because of this it is best to avoid the question of whether something is “fact” or not I’ve found.  This means one must avoid the “fact” mentality but more what of one feels is “right”.  This requires a number of points of view:

  • The awareness that there are different interpretation.  This means an awareness that, because there are different interpretations, it does not mean one is wrong but that both can be right in their own way (and usually are).
  • The awareness of that interpretation varies.  Interpretation of things varies with points of view, people, belief, etc.  In fact, ones own personal interpretations typically change with age and even life experience.  This means that interpretation is always evolving for a person.
  • The fact that we don’t know.  Sometimes, we have no interpretation or, oftentimes, our interpretation is wrong.  There is nothing bad in this.
  • That interpretation is a continual quest a person does.  It never ends and is an ongoing thing.  A person never completes this quest nor is the ‘ultimate interpretation’ ever found.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen


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