I was walking on the beach this morning and saw one of these stone stacks. As I saw it, I thought, "Ah, an example of humans need to make a mark on the world." The behaviour is 'there', but my interpretation probably says more about me than the intentions of those who contributed to the stack.
I have found that I interpret others' behaviour in this way all of the time, and found it useful - in teaching, in counselling, and more generally - to recognise when I have made such an interpretation, and seek other interpretations. This is not always easy, particularly when emotions are involved; it takes practice, and perhaps a state of mind.
I'm part of a group of friends who choose a Mulla Nasrudin story and discuss various interpretations of it. Here is the story we are currently discussing. How would you interpret it?
What alternative interpretations could be made about the stone stack? Perhaps it tells us that people are fascinated by balance, gravity. It seems to me unlikely that the stack will remain upright, that it defies gravity in some sense. It could be construed as indicative of a desire for mastery over the forces of nature.
There is an aesthetic value to it. I tried to make one myself once. It was pleasurable to feel the stone in my hands, to consider where I might place the next stone. Why is it here, on this beach? First, there is a plentiful supply of rounded stones, but also it is set against the beautiful backdrop of sand and water.
Part of me thinks they are impressive and interesting, but another part of me wonders whether they detract from the beauty of a beach, another example of humans altering and spoiling a natural landscape. There is a reaction of like and dislike. There are hundreds of them on the beach at Skara Brae, only metres from one of the oldest settlements in Europe.
Perhaps it was one person who made it, perhaps there were many who contributed to it over time. If it was many, it could symbolise humans' desire to contribute to common works.
Any of these thoughts may have been in the mind of the person or people who decided to build it, or perhaps there were no thoughts at all, and they just wanted something to do while sitting at the beach. I cannot know why it was built without talking to the person or people who made it, and in many ways it doesn't really matter why it was built.
But it might be helpful to consider a range of possible interpretations, beyond my initial reaction, when encountering the behaviour of others.