The Projectionists

Reddit user Coffeeplzthx noted this about our last podcast episode: “Yeah…. a little too far fetched. To some extent, not every single thing in this show is thought out to that level.” To which I responded: “True. In the disparity/negotiation between authorial intention and reader reception, we cater to the latter and roll with imaginative interpretation. Authors and readers have no imperative to align in making meaning together.” Which I imagine, if anyone on the /r/adventuretime thread cared to respond, would be criticized as pedantic and pretentious. My intention, which as I’m arguing and celebrating is bound to meet tension with reception, is to magnify the imaginative opportunities of interpretation. In this particular context, I’m positioning those opportunities within the creative act of reading, which is often overlooked as a creative act. If anything, at its best, it’s presented as an investigative one, wherein you’re trying to detect what the author wants you to see, know, and understand. It’s fair to say that a good number of people approach reading their own life in this way: they’re trying to determine what their creator has in mind for them in terms of purpose. If life is a story, someone’s writing it, and our primary task is to interpret that writing. It’s an extraordinary difference to re-conceptualize living as a wholly creative endeavor, where all meaning springs from you. That isn’t to say that reality springs from you. But once you exist, the way you make sense of that existence is within your creative capacity. Yes, your creative inclinations are framed by the input you’re receiving from your social and genetic codes, and so too the way you project and then experience and understand reality and your self within it, but you are constantly creating that internalized reality and projecting it onto everything you encounter. You select from an infinite variety of mental models and apply them to the world around you, searching and sifting until you find what works. When you reach something reliable, welcome to the world of your bias. Bias gives you a stable sense of reality and identity, which is why it’s difficult to let go, or even suspend for a moment. This places you in a void, in discomfort, in uncertainty, and evolution would favor grounding and certainty in order to function efficiently and effectively and so survive. Conceiving of an ambiguous, fluid environment and then trying to function within that? Doesn’t seem like a wise adaptation, right? And so we look for the “right” answer in any situation. What is most natural for us to think and believe. Give us that, and we’re set. Life wants nothing more than life, and when we start to complicate that, we run into trouble. Hence why infinite possibility, available in the field of interpretation, is too vast and absurd for us to handle. So we seek to make the field smaller. To make the possibilities fewer. To define the field, to preclude certain possibilities, to favor a few so that we may all experience stability within that field. Academia is one way to label this reductive habit. Or just plain old socialization. In order for a group of people to function together, the field must remain relatively small. After all, communication is important, and if the field remains wide open, we’ll be yelling in all directions, filling the air with noise, losing all meaningful signal, right? We don’t know, but it’s safe to assume. It’s safe to focus on the author’s intentions, to narrow our search and pretend like that narrowing wasn’t a creative act in itself. In this creation, what have we destroyed? Nothing really. Creation is possible in the next instant, of course. But it’s safer to search, hoping for an answer, instead of just creating one, knowing certainty is an impossibility.


  1. dasfuller

    Or you could’ve just said, “PB speaks harried German, thus she is a fascist.”

    Also, paragraphs, baby! Use them!

  2. Luigus (Post author)

    Sorry. I unleashed this in one quick burst of writing, so I figured the single paragraph suited my mood at the time.


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