Respecting Subjective Meaning

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Photograph by Jon Tyson


While walking to work, I witnessed something special and encouraging about the human spirit. By the Starbucks on 28th and Park, there's generally a homeless gentleman nestled within the South East corner of this particular building. This is not terribly uncommon; as although there's no excellent place to be homeless, individuals around Starbucks will often find others willing to share a pastry or hot morning coffee. Daily, I see this man huddled under a warm blanket drinking his hot coffee and warm pastry. Although on this occasion; just like many others, this individual accidentally spilled his coffee in his humble quarters.

I've never been homeless but in my imagination; should I ever become homeless, spilling coffee would only cause me to move five or six feet to my left or right. Although, this individual took a fistful of napkins from his pastry bag and begun wiping the cardboard box from where he sat and the cement below. To the homeless man, this place was his home and carried with it as much devotion and care one carries for his or her own home.

As humans, we're social-intellectual beings who derive understanding through categorization and dissemination; meaning, we prescribe meaning to what we find influential or desirable within our day-to-day perception. Just as I place subjective meaning within my rented apartment; so too, a homeless man assigns subjective meaning to his self-designated property. Just as I take care to keep my home clean; so too, this individual takes care of his home. Despite the differences in quality, there remains an identical similarity in our approach to how we appreciate what we place subjective meaning upon.

What we designate for ourselves as meaningful should be taken seriously and with meaning comes emotional connection. At times, it may be easy for us to separate ourselves from others; due to the inherent differences in the quality of what we prescribe subjecting meaning to but the strength of emotional connection remains similar. Without a doubt, our humanity connects us to those different and similar and in this way we must remain respectful to others; no matter the perceived differences, for their meaning has no less relative value than our own.