Rusted metal with fixings attached

Seeing what things mean

As intelligent creatures, how often in life is it truly clear what things mean? Don’t our interpretations, along with the overarching picture into which we’re placing any given fact, effectively change the meaning we’re assigning? The human mind becoming this strange lens through which realities are filtered to the point of them coming to “mean” something to us as individuals.

Almost as if each community or culture gives us the code for how we should be seeing things – all the nuanced shades of interpretation we need to apply and the delicately significant order in which any conflicting priorities or values should be stacked up in our minds. The perspectives of any one group of people somehow having been honed into a fairly unified set of ideas about life and how it all works.

Then, this sense in which we had to be trained into any particular mode of understanding: what it all means and the options available for how we might respond. The conventions of our various cultures essentially, perhaps, amounting to ways of thinking about all the different aspects of life. Our ideas on relationships, speech, the individual, respect, authority, freedom, tradition, and countless other things all pre-defined for us.

Thinking of how each community has, over time, evolved to see life their own way, it’s almost as if humans have been forever breaking down the elements of reality then fashioning them together in all these specific interpretations of events. Each country, group, family or person having come to see life their own unique way – and, thinking things “had” to be done like that in order for life to hold the “right” meanings.

Bringing with it, of course, the fact that if others aren’t assigning the same meaning then intentions can easily become lost. Isn’t it all a form of communication? Something built upon common meanings whereby “what we mean to say” gets carried faithfully over to others. If we all assign differing meanings, is it even possible to understand one another? Almost as if we’d all drift into speaking our own distinct language.

The idea that we might be shifting toward living in our own versions of reality seems intriguing: that, within our various groups, generations or subcultures, we might all be crafting our own worlds while living alongside inscrutable others. As if many different versions of life’s meaning are coming to coexist between people with very little interest or capacity for bridging the divides.

If our thoughts create some sort of commonly held “web” around reality, allowing us to communicate about it in meaningful, purposeful ways, what would it mean if we each started to live in webs of our own making? Losing, perhaps, the sense of our ideas somehow needing to match or reflect realities – rather than amplify or distort them – if we’re to be able to talk and understand one another.

We might all be looking at things from different perspectives, but can we still transcend that to share thoughts about the same, one reality?

Notes and References:

If environment shapes us…
Pieces of the puzzle
Ways of being & what’s getting left out
Conversations we agree to have
What’s at the heart of society?
Seeing where others are coming from
Words & relating as paths to change
Nothing short of everything
Do we live in different worlds?

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