Chapter 25. Marian Appirations
There is the designing of signs, and the experiencing of signs.
Some signs are developed, and of these, some were perhaps never quite signs previously. One relates a potential sign with an interpretant in order to point it towards something else, and it becomes a sign to those who grasp that interpretant.
Then, there are such as those which are experienced as signs, and here the task is not to develop interpretants, but rather to allow the interpretants to work better, and to allow the semiosis it effects to show itself more clearly and function more efficaciously. These two issues, if I may, are quite different. In one, the point is to point one thing to another. In another the task is to allow its pointing to work better.
Photo-semiosic studies, I believe, can do both. But these are different projects. When one develops and creates signs, one is shaping semiosic ontology, and by way of that, potentially, culture: “hey, look at this!…and think about this (and ignore those)!…” But when one is letting signs show themselves, or perhaps even unconcealing signs, one is perhaps searching for the way, or clearing, to allow for something quite apart from our subjective preferences to inform us, and to allow it to point us to things. In the first, one is teaching another, and in the latter, one is being taught, or allowing oneself to be so taught. In the first, one has stood one’s ground. But in the latter, one is looking for the place to stand.
But these two are not unrelated. When standing one’s ground and designing signs, one may be informed by a normative paradigm which one develops independently of photography. However, it is also possible that, since photography unconceals the place to stand, that one can perhaps do this, and then on account of having found the place to stand, to then stand one’s ground and design signs accordingly. I have discussed, elsewhere how photography can help us find the place to stand, by fostering or easing our way into certain practical epistemologies (see Signs of Good and Evil; Death and Resurrection). In this way, photography in some sense significally designs the designer, who then uses photography to design signs significally, or translate and shape signs semio-ethically.
Better yet: occasionally, a certain image or picture leads to the designing of the designer by disclosing a significant idea, but when thinking of how to design any representamen to sign that significant, one grasps that the original image, or perpective, that designed the designer is ideal. In this way and in a sense, the sign does double work – firstly, in designing the designer, and secondly, in becoming the design (or part of the design) that designer can use; these are intensionally different events, but they come together extensionally in that same phenomenon, or image. Not all images or viewpoints are like that. Sometimes one sees an image that has punctum for us, but may not serve well to communicate to others the important insight it carries to us: these are like private revelations. Other times, an image may not carry new insight for us, but serve well to communicate an insight we have derived from another source: these are like dry catechisms that we read with little spiritual feeling but which we craft to inform those that are searching for the faith.
Finally there are those, which we now speak of, that are like special Marian appirations and attendant miracles – these move us deeply and transform us, and at the same time also might serve as a great and potent sign to the rest of the world. These, with their messages and normative secrets, when we discover them, are those we should especially promulgate, as photosemioethicists. These tell us and those around us, when they appear and show, where to stand, and to take our stand.