As human animals our minds have become characterized by a tendency toward creating, finding, seeing meaning. As individuals our felt need varies widely as does our ability to see, find, create meaning. But we’re all involved in this ongoing project of our evolving humanity and
We look for meaning in our own lives, our personal collection of knowledge, insight, experience. And we find it in our wider cultures and societies. Sometimes we have little need for it and at other times we feel a desperate need for meaning to sustain, preserve, heal our humanity and our soul.
Sometimes there are those with a strong sense of recklessness and high risk capacity in their personality, who are willing to make the very bold move to throw over the entire fabric of their lives up to that point and trade it in for something else they are beginning to feel matches or corresponds more to the way they are now experiencing their life. They deliberately and consciously trade out their meanings for new ones.
There are also those who have had no felt need for meaning, who gain their pleasure in life from other pursuits, but then their life throws them a curve ball. They can’t get what they need and can’t figure out how to get and keep the pleasure they desire, or avoid the pain or loss or discouragement flowing in. They lose their hold on whatever it is that has given direction and energy to their life. They have stepped off into the incomprehensible end of the pool, teeming with the confusing parts – the parts that can’t be explained or understood. They have run smack into the lived experience of the essential meaninglessness of the raw, un-adorned flow of life.
And they suddenly need meaning . Because meaning is precisely the capacity to transcend the debilitating emotional and psychological paralysis which overwhelms us when life fails us. Often this is an impetus to the mind to step back and consciously sort through our life; to begin to piece together those things which give meaning for us. It triggers an individual mental construction project that can be the door to a more consciously lived life, a life of awareness and deliberate engagement.
Or it precipitates a broader quest for meaning through the vast human archives of knowledge and insight. We can collect meanings from those whose sense of meaning corresponds fairly closely
And, of course, there are those for whom the crash into the darkness simply overwhelms them. No meaning can be found or created and they sink under the weight of life. But there are also some among us who have a gift for both meaning and empathy. They can step out of their own experience and enter into the experience of the other. And from within the darkness of the other they can listen until they see the fragmentary remnants there in the darkness of the other’s soul and feel their way along the contours of the broken parts to reclaim and re-construct.
Those who seek to become healing agents to the broken soul, must first be able to step outside of their own context and see through the eyes of the soul that is broken. Because the only stable and enduring meanings will be those which are drawn from the individual soul-mind-life which experiences them.
If you want to think about the dark side of meaning creation – and yes, there is a dark side – you can go on to the next post.
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