Tag Archives: Interpretation


The bedridden king of Macedonia showed little sign of recovery. Fever attacked his body and many wondered if death was imminent. Philip, the king’s personal physician, ministered to his needs as best as he could. Conquests removed them all from their homeland so Philip worked with what means he had to create medication. The king’s sickness came at a time of military action and his soldiers saw his condition worsening instead of getting better. Though not present yet aware of the situation, the general sent word to the king that he suspected treachery.

Believing a warring nation enlisted the physician to assassinate the king, the general sent a letter of warning. After reading the letter, the king knew the matter had to be addressed and that unquestionably. At a fitting time, specifically as Philip came to administer medicine, the king exchanged the letter with him for the medicine. As the king prepared to drink the medicine he told Philip to read the letter. As Philip looked up from having read the letter, he saw Alexander the Great taking the last sip of the medicine.

In reflection, some believe Alexander studied Philip’s expression as he read the letter. Had the king perceived guilt, shame or fear his actions would have been different. Others believe Alexander wanted to display to everyone his level of confidence in Philip’s fidelity. Either way, Alexander knew…he knew that he knew.


The etymology of this word is found in the Latin ‘intueri’. A translation of this word gives us phrasing such as ‘to look inside’ or ‘to take hold of’. Beyond perception, Intuition is an understanding on an explicit level. In philosophy, it pertains to unlearned (yet known) knowledge that’s of a ‘non-inferential’ origin. I discussed a closely related subject in my post TABULA RASA. Defining intuition is not any easier than understanding how we utilize it. Something just occurs to us and we know it is a sure thing.

“The more we know the more we see”

Trees can be categorized differently but the two main groups are evergreen and deciduous. Someone educated in the differing qualities sees the distinctions in the leaves, branches, and the makeup of the trunk. When some people listen to music, they hear the tempo and may discern individual instruments used. Others may focus on the lyrics and through an understanding of references hear a message foremost.

Within genres of music, artists are easily identified by those who follow them closely whereas others who are unfamiliar would not know where to start. ‘Foodies’ do not simply taste food; they experience it by way of identifying seasoning, temperatures, and individual ingredients.

The chiropractor knows the origin of the referred pain; the massage therapist identifies the twisted muscle. A friend of mine was being seen to by an ophthalmologist who identified a gall bladder issue by looking at his eyes. Recently a professional pool player remarked to me that novices break the billiard balls then look for the easiest or open shots. But he said after the break he sees a ‘road map for where he should go’, not necessarily the easiest shots to make. Of these examples, it stands to reason that experience has developed their understanding. But the role intuition has in polishing an understanding is incalculable – it streamlines it’s application.

Dr William Bates proposed in 1891 a disputed set of exercises that was purported to resolve vision problems. Known as the Bates Method, it achieved popularity by efforts of author Aldous Huxley in the 40’s. Huxley eventually wrote a book about this entitled “The Art of Seeing”. In it he explained how the Bates Method supposedly helped him regain his sight. Criticizing modern day efforts to correct vision he emphasized a duality in the process of sight; specifically that it is a physical and psychological effort.

Declaring corrective lenses as merely a crutch, Huxley affirmed sight was an issue of memory and one’s “ability to interpret imagery”. He claimed that utilizing the Bates Method corrected his vision problems and he was not short on people who sought to challenge this claim. It was concluded that he (and others in favor of the Bates Method) never corrected their vision but rather retrained their eyes. Essentially they learned to use their mind’s eye to see what their physical eye could not. Obviously, this would not be the kind of folks we would want the DMV to issue driver’s licenses to. The Bates Method doesn’t lend itself to sound medical practice but it does offer an interesting metaphor for intuition. Dr Bates efforts in this area fit better within a philosophical framework rather than a medicinal one.

A consistent training of our mind by study and by life experience is how we sharpen our intuition. Our mind is like a sponge; whatever we immerse it in is what will come out when it is pressed. Those who display skill in their craft have not only seen the outside of it, they have taken hold of it by seeing it from within as well.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

a belief

a belief

The story is told of two men, who desiring to safeguard their riches, decided to conceal them by burial. One of the men selected an area below a tree, the other choose a place within his garden. Having selected places they deemed safest, both men went about burying their gold, silver, and jewels.

Time passed and soon proved both men had failed in the choices they made. The man who buried his treasures in the garden mistakenly assumed someone stole his treasures because he could not find them. However he had simply just forgot the exact spot where he had buried them. The other man who had buried his below a tree was unaware a thief was watching in the near distance. No sooner had he tamped the dirt and departed, the thief came and exhumed the treasures.

Both men continued on living under an illusion, one thinking he had plenty yet had nothing while the other thinking he had nothing but had plenty.

Earlier this year I mentioned in my post Shadow or Substance a term used in the financial industry known as a “market bubble”. Recently I was reminded of that when I read something Al Gore said regarding oil. Calling out fossil fuels he categorized them as a carbon bubble: “Bubbles by definition involve a lot of asset owners and investors who don’t see what in retrospect becomes blindingly obvious. And this carbon bubble is going to burst.”

The blindingly obvious – that statement stands out to me. We’ve both heard it and phrased it in other ways ourselves: “Hindsight is 20/20” or “If I’d only knew then what I know now”.  What is about the obvious that’s so elusive? Like sleight of hand, an act is carried out right before our very eyes yet something else had our attention.

Charles Mackay wrote a book in 1841 titled Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds. In it he describes the events that unfolded in Europe when the country was first introduced to the Tulip flower. Imported by the Turks, the tulip became an item of renown. As their fame spread, tulips became a status symbol and were considered a luxurious item. Some growers aiming to set their tulips apart began transmitting a virus into the bulbs. By creating unique color patterns, their bulbs would stand out from the rest. Everyone else caught on and moved in the same direction.

As time went on, contracts to buy bulbs at the end of their growing season were bought and sold. In his book, Mackay gives an account of people selling off or trading valuable possessions in order to participate in the Tulip market. At the height of Tulip Mania as it would become known, single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the average annual income.

Today you can buy 10 bulbs for less than $6.00.

We shake our heads at the idea of masses being influenced by a flower. We laugh at the idea that an entire country could think something so temporal could possess such value. But how is it any different today? Our culture permits items with basic function and single purpose to net a return which generations before would scoff at. Purses, sunglasses, watches and a host of peripherals exceed the cost of cars, houses, or logical investments. Yet today society permits this and even celebrates it. Some prices are driven by inflation, some are driven by demand, and some are driven by ignorance.

“A fool and his money are soon parted”

A belief about something does not substantiate a reality…there may just be too many letters present.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

I can HEAR clearly now…the rain is gone

“Can you hear me now?” “How about now?” “Now you’re cutting out.”

We all have endured the frustration of an unstable cell phone signal and the inevitable dropped call. It is usually preceded by someone engaged in full discourse while we listen to the other person cutting in and out. Hoping against hope the signal will recover, we let them continue on until the infamous 3 beeps tells us they are gone. What follows next is a string of attempts by each person to call the other one back only to hear an immediate voicemail greeting – because both lines are tied up. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

An exchange of ideas with some can be equally as complex.  My last two articles (Perspective and misINTERPRETation) cover why and I will not replicate that material in this one. Simply put, a price tag cannot be placed on effective communication. When someone has it, they just have it! But the onus rests upon the communication’s recipient; that which is done with what is heard matters most. I believe a keen mind possesses the ability to listen to a matter in full before responding to it. Defensive and congested hearing arrives at a conclusion before its presentation is fully accomplished. Responding to (or rejecting) a matter without hearing it fully is nothing more than narrow-mindedness.

For some objectivity is not possible; this is due to faults such as intimidation, arrogance, and ignorance. These character flaws have the same influence on “connectivity” just as poor cell phone signals hinder quality conversation.  Aristotle said “it’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. We do not have to agree with a premise to agree with a conclusion. No two people think exactly alike; and if they do its likely only one of them is doing the thinking.

When we think of what intuition is and what it means, we think of snap judgment and insight. The terminology of “rapid cognition” as made famous by the works of Gerd Gigerenzer or Malcolm Gladwell, taps into that ability “to know something” aside from an evident basis for knowing “why or how you know”. I love their material on this subject but the etymology of the word intuition is what I want to highlight for this article. Intuition is a word originating in Latin (‘intueri’) which translates as ‘to look inside’. This conveys a sense of investigative thought, an analysis of meaning with intent to ascertain more. We may see a window but unless we direct our gaze through it, we will not see what is on the other side.

In closing, consider the wisdom of Bill Cosby: “Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing.


Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés



Raising the window shade to look again, I still could not see anything. First it was 15 minutes, then 30, and soon an hour had passed. There we sat waiting to begin our flight out of Washington and yet our plane had scarcely moved from the loading bridge. I could not recall a time where I had seen fog so dense, it was as if we were surrounded by billows of smoke. Finally the fog dissipated enough for the Captain to announce we would depart and I was hoping he could see more than I could. Taxiing along the runway then launching forward, we soon took flight. Climbing to 10,000 feet, then 20,000, we finally were cruising at nearly 40,000 feet. The view from that same window now presented a much different perspective; a clear blue sky and hardly any clouds could be seen.

This experience represents how perspective influences response to a situation. Nothing changed concerning the weather, but our perspective changed when we rose above it.  Many times perspective becomes obscured by difficulties, interactions with negative people, or having a pessimistic attitude. While we cannot prevent every difficulty, we can control how we respond to it. We cannot transform the negative outlook others  have but we do not have to be influenced by it. And of all these things, the one we have most power over is our own attitude. Our attitude is formed and shaped by our perspective.  “Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud and one the stars” (F. Langbridge)

Perspective and Difficulty

When we are confronted by difficulty, regardless of its degree, the mind immediately formulates a response. The situation may be different but the response is typically consistent with our nature.  As the density of the fog hindered visibility for flight, difficult times can hinder our vision. It’s hard to believe when everything is falling apart that a resolution is possible. Or at the least, it has an end.  The day before posting this article, I was flying in a small non-commercial aircraft. As we began our descent, the pilot told me we would encounter turbulence very soon. Descending into clouds that had been below us, we now flew in a pattern that kept us surrounded by them. Visibility was zero. The pilot responded to my surprise by stating the instrumentation is what we were now relying on. When flying in zero visibility, a pilot cannot follow feelings or perspective. Spatial disorientation might cause them to feel they are going one way when they might be going another.  When difficult times disorient us, our perspective can become our undoing. This is where the importance of positive (and higher) influences becomes most evident.

Perspective and Negative People

“Protect your spirit from contamination; limit your time with negative people.”  – Thelma Davis

Naysayers, whiners, and skeptics are everywhere. These people walk among us criticizing and complaining about everything. Some of them do not even view “the glass as half empty”; they have a readymade presentation about the insufficiencies of the glass itself. They are trained well in the art of minimizing potential and maximizing limitation. These people have rallied associates for their cause as well; an alliance based on their ability to offer fear and anxiety. They see the dark side of things; citing chapter and verse on how pitiful things are. They see the worst in people and the worst in every situation. Avoid their toxicity; they should not be permitted the opportunity to distort your perspective.

Perspective and Attitude

Remember “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”. Once I have reached the other side of a trial, I know it helps to reflect on the perspective I had during it. I try to think about how I felt and how I was thinking when it started, then the same when it was over. This helps me to work toward attaining a proper perspective when the next trial arises. Proper perspective of the past helps to have a proper perspective of the future. On the flip side, I am reminded of material I used to teach anger management that used an allegory of “life views and windows of time”. The material created a metaphor of people standing before “windows of the past, present, and future”.  Viewing life (and thus living it) from a window view of the past is not constructive. You cannot undo what has happened and regret will only create negative feelings for today. Living life from a window view of the future can create anxiety and stress. The material encouraged focus on living life from a window view of the present. We cannot change the past but the future is best prepared for by focusing on the present.

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.  If you’ve ever heard Zig Ziglar speak, you probably have heard him say this!

What kind of perspective do you have? Where has it taken you? Or by contrast, what has it taken from you?

Seek a higher perspective and once you have attained it, seek a higher one than that.

My Photo



Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés



“A good understanding prevents a misunderstanding”

I am not sure who coined that phrase but it is one I personally quote often. Those displaying mastery of communication through oratory, delivery, and word prose still face a formidable challenge: the understanding of their hearers. Despite the message’s content or its medium, its entire essence can be misinterpreted simply passing through the recipient’s filters. Effective communicators attempt to avoid misinterpretation through basic fundamentals of message delivery. They do not simply create a message then suppose it will be understood exactly as intended to be. Nothing can be assumed. Whether the medium is in audible, pictorial/video, or written format some of the basics are: be clear, be concise, and be consistent. When following guidelines such as these, the message can pass through the recipient’s filters with greater ease.

What are these filters I am referring to? They are a construct of personality traits and dispositions that a person develops in life. These are cultivated by influence of culture, upbringing, education, and role models. Once these filters are in place, it becomes nearly impossible for someone to receive and interpret information apart from them. Even the most objective of people will concede they often defer to predisposition. These filters are an advantage to some and a misfortune to others. Those whose upbringing was healthy and functional were afforded an opportunity to view things from that perspective. Those who were subject to pitiful role models or were raised in a dysfunctional culture learned another perspective. Regardless, the manner in which a message is interpreted and thus responded to is still a choice.

We all have experienced hearing a song play in the background somewhere then recognize later it was retained in our memory. While we may have not been listening to the song we still heard it and our subconscious tucked it away. The melody is there, the tempo is there, but what about all of the lyrics? That is one way people misinterpret the information they receive – they heard it but they did not listen to it. The information was incomplete therefore subject to misinterpretation.

There are basically 2 principal methods for translating information, texts, or a particular science. One is metaphrase and the other is paraphrase; the first aims for literal translation while the latter focuses on “an intended sense”. Terminology regarding language translation method of archaic texts has been divided up as “functional equivalency” versus “literal equivalency”. Again, the first seeks to convey what the text means in essence. The second takes the text and drops it into a receptor language with the intent of literal presentation. Of these examples, which do you think is at risk for misinterpretation? The method of metaphrase or paraphrase? A translation that is functional or literal?

It is estimated that people speak at a rate of 125 words per minute. It is also said that we spend 80% of our day communicating and 45% listening.  When you couple these figures with research stating 24 hours after hearing something, we typically remember only 50% a dilemma arises in the work place! If we take these figures and place them in a 3 ½ hour training session metric, this is what we might have:

  • 210 Minute Training Session
  • If one person did all the talking, they could say as many as 26,250 words
  • If the people trained listened at 25% efficiency, they would hear 6,562 words
  • By the next day they might only remember 3,281 words

The training attendees would do well to take notes and the speaker should choose their words carefully! But what about the filters I’ve already written about, how might they factor in? Logically those could be represented in the 25% listening efficiency, but what an exponential increase of chance for misinterpretation. The sum of the matter is that we should listen and not merely hear. That we should insist on the metaphrased and literal rather than things implied. And finally we cannot undo what led to the construction of our own filters. But we can ensure they are working for us and not against us. Prejudices, narrow mindedness, and reductionist thinking are the result of restrictive filters. They keep people from evolving mentally. Our minds have the ability to comprehend an average of 300 words per minute; more than double that which is spoken. I could throw other facts and figures out there but you get the point. We cannot allow a biased approach to information undo it’s essence through misinterpretation.

“What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand.”

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés