Redefining Reality Is A Full Time Job That Pays Paltry Wages - Grasshopper
Even the highest paid interpreters at the United Nations fail to communicate meaning. We also fail to find the illusive carrot called "meaning" when we continue to interpret reality and attempt to sell our definition of it as holy doctrine.
Assigning meaning is the human activity that causes much of our pain. Every slight we have ever felt is a result of a meaning we ascribed to the reality that preceded it. Perhaps an example would be helpful . . .
Certain cultures have a custom of bowing when greeting another. If someone doesn't bow back, it's taken as a sign of ignorance or insult. How did it get to be that way? Simply by assigning meaning.
What would happen if you just noticed that the person didn't bow back and left it at that? You would have left out the meaning and avoided unnecessary hurt feelings and/or conflict.
A pithy line from the Van Morrison song DOMINO assigns meaning to the concept of assigning meaning.
There's no need for argument
There's no argument at all
And if you never hear from him
That just means he didn't call
As I wrote in a blog post from May 15th, 2008:
"The meaning we give something takes on a life of its own and eventually becomes a "fact" in our head. We think we are operating on the factual data but, in fact, the data has been so distorted by meaning that we can only come to a faulty conclusion."
It's productive to assemble a set of facts and formulate the possible shape of the future. That's forecasting. It's another thing to take a patterned past and repeat it into infinity. That's just staying asleep.
That's what we do when we assign meaning – continue our nap. The result is the future automatically replicates the past and we suffer again due to a meaning that was assigned, possibly even before we were born.
The wake-up call is to notice how much self-inflicted pain we cause ourselves by redefining reality and making it something it isn't – meaningful.
Reality contains no meaning, other than what we assign to it. The difficulty becomes apparent when we wake up enough to notice that there are myriad meanings that can be assigned, dependent on the angle of view.
Meaning loses much of its sting when we look upon it as a preference.
"I prefer that people bow back when I bow to them." That's a far cry from "They're insulting me by not returning my bow."
Assigning meaning is cleverly disguised way of denying reality. It's just another way of saying one of the following:
That which is oughtn't.
That which isn't ought.
A more eyes open approach to meaning is to personalize it by adding the words "to me." "It means something 'to me' when someone goes out of their way to help me." "It means something 'to me' when a person shakes hands with me when I extend my hand." You are properly placing the onus of meaning where it belongs – back on you.
Meaning isn't a hard noun like "brick." It doesn't exist out there in the material world, only in your mind. But you throw invisible bricks at people when you insist they buy into your meaning. That lifetime battle takes on a life of its own, until we examine it.
Just like investors who take a look at their portfolio from time to time, it's helpful to examine where we have ascribed meaning, and to notice the return on investment it delivers. I think you will find meaning to be a very low yield fund.
Remember this: "Re-actions" are the same actions taken again. They keep meaning alive.
Choosing an action (responding) drains all the fat (meaning) out of reality and delivers meatier dividends.
When we recognize that redefining reality is the global pastime that feeds our illusion, life takes on a whole new meaning.
All the best,
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