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>That is your interpretation

>It seems some people think the refrain, “That is just your interpretation,” is legitimate. By implication they are saying that there are a multitude of interpretations and, further, that any particular one is as legitimate as another. While it is true that some statements can have more than one interpretation, there are many they cannot have.

I was contemplating a hymn I enjoy, Be thou my vision. The first 2 lines are:

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art.

Consider the phrase, “Be all else but naught to me.” What could it mean? If the word “be” refers to “Lord” of the preceding line the phrase stated unambiguously is

Lord be everything except nothing to me

If the word “be” refers to the “all else” which follows then the meaning would be

Everything be nothing to me

So this phrase can potentially have more than one meaning. Of course the phrase cannot mean

Lord, you mean nothing to me

however you parse it.

In this hymn there is only one meaning, the following clause limitis the options to the second interpretation—”save that thou art” makes sense with one idea but not the other. Despite the fact I like the poetic flavour of the first interpretation, it doesn’t quite make sense:

Lord be everything except nothing to me, except you.

Whereas what is intended is:

Everything be nothing to me, except you (Lord)

There are not a multitude of interpretations for every statement, and not all possible interpretations have equal validity.

Categories: interpretation, lyrics
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