That is Not What I Meant At All; That is Not It, At All.

That is one line in “The Love Song by J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

It’s a gorgeous poem, and if you get a chance, you should read it. (I’ll even pardon you if you must leave this blog to go read it. But you should come back because I have other things to say.)

Although the poem has such gems as Do I dare disturb the universe? or In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo, the most powerful line for me is the one I’ve inserted into the title.

Because it’s absolutely mad.

I mean, you have to be a famous poet to write that line. To suggest that when people misinterpret what you say, you will have the chance to correct them. Wow. I mean, that deserves some applause. “That is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all.” Do you know how the world replies to that? Too bad.

Because everyone is off and judging before the word “go.” Anything you ever write or say or do is going to be misinterpreted and misjudged. Whether you meant anything by it or not, people will read between the lines that you never intended. I wish there was a nicer way to say this, but chances are you will never give off the impression that you want. Meaning is not for you to hold on to; it is for the world to decide.

So, if it doesn’t matter what you mean, why am I telling you this? If you can never make people understand your exact vision, then what’s the point?

The point is you can’t hide because you aren’t sure of the impression you will make. Simultaneously, you cannot try to tell people that they aren’t understanding you correctly. Because that’s an endeavor in futility. It’s like standing in a modern art museum and trying to convince everyone that every piece deserves to be there. It’s simply not happening. Besides, in everyone’s minds, they are the masterful painter of their own reality, not you.

So, let people think what they will, and try your best not to correct them. You don’t owe anyone an explanation, whether you believe it or not.

3 thoughts on “That is Not What I Meant At All; That is Not It, At All.

  1. Great thoughts on this line! Perception is inevitable and we have to live with and through it every day. I’ll have to read the poem again with that in mind!

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