That title phrase popped into my mind as I went to bed. It rattled around all night and was still there when I opened my eyes. For a time in academia, people wrangled about intentionality. Could we trust a writer to mean what she said or to say what she meant, or is language hopelessly out of our control, like a nest of snakes with their own writhing intention and no regard for the hand that makes the mark? I don't know from onions if that argument still pertains, but I did a lot of thinking about meaning and intention this morning, and I don't think I'm done thinking. Here's one big question: does chance trump intention? Digging around in daily life, I think the original idea that snuck into mind has weight. My coffee is in the blue paisley mug. No, I didn't give much thought to which mug I took from the cupboard, but some tiny spark of a plan led my hand to that item, not the yellow one next to it. It means something about my mood, my wish for a certain aesthetic, something!
On the other hand, a little bit of chance can tip the balance in writing. I intend to write about a cook, but see that I've typed the word crook. Aha! A crook in the kitchen is much more interesting than a cook. But here it comes, my intention to write about the more unusual becomes a factor. I cannot deny or avoid my own choices. Selection of detail is, perhaps, sparked by chance variation, but almost immediately the czar of language says, go this way, say that word, make it work. Who the heck is in charge here? Sadly, it's me. I have to take responsibility for the choices I make. I have to consider the arc/ark of communication, which is the goal of art. Even an avant garde throwing paint at the wall sends a message, "Look how I disregard the figurative. I'm being independent." I don't think we can deny intention and meaning anymore than we can willfully stop breathing.