Meaning-Making in Living Systems, or, 15,000 Things

subatomic

is a phrase and a theory I have queried, contemplated, spelunked and pursued for the past few decades of my “living.”  Since (apparently) before I can remember, I’ve been addicted to a kind of figuring-out – some offspring of “understanding,” any concept / idea / or belief-faith – that might elucidate to me my (experienced) compulsion to “meaning” or “significance” – to matter as matter-in-relation.

I’ve encountered many gurus (preachers, priests, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, mathematicians and artists, farmers and engineers, poets = “people”) along the way who have sent, directed, swerved, commanded, troubled, commended, interrogated, suggested and questioned this impulse of mine.  From sarcasm to scholarship I’ve been told I will not find that which I seek.  Or recommended resolutions that don’t withstand my particular scrutiny and skepticism.

It is sunny and light, Spring-y and gentle in Kansas today.  I took my lunch, after a walk, at a table among trees.  Birds were active, dogs ambling by, flowers in bloom, and a breeze.

For the most part I “eat” cause I’ve believed that otherwise I would fail (as a being) and die.  I like to enjoy food, but most often it’s presumed “preparation” falls to me, and therefore becomes a complication of time I would prefer not to.

So I sat and I drank (so much easier).  Water & coffee & other things to my pleasure.  And “pondered,” I guess – what I do, when (apparently) no one requires immediate need of me.

I was alone, in a way.

And thinking of “meaning-making,” and “knowledge,” “belief” and “desire” – human shit.  (It’s what I do – that compulsion).

*** As I was contesting people’s behaviors and language recently in my home, my unanticipated fortune of something like a life-partner offered the response “there are 15,000 things it could be.”  Which struck hold and has become something of a cliché in short order in our home.  Imponderables, indefinables, indescribabilities.  For any action any thing might perform – there are nigh infinite possible “reasons” (most likely irrational) – these courses are taken.  “Personal knowledge” is not something we have.  Systems do what they do – what is done is what’s done – and the likelihood of our assessments being correct is near null.*** [that’s all an aside]

I can be critical.

And quite gracious and kind.

“Depending.”

On what?

15,000 things.

I am rambling.  And have decided to do so.  Readers, you must know, I don’t write because I have something to say.  (15,000 things).  I have drives to express (inexplicably) – and most often what I write is precisely a declaration of what I don’t know.

“The more we know, the more exposed we are to our ignorance, and the more we know to ask”

– Marcelo Gleiser, The Island of Knowledge

Well that’s a positivist view.

When I write, I expose all my ignorance.  Compose hunches and urges, fascinations and fears.  Ache to pull my ineffables toward tongues.  Talking’s the same.  I don’t know what I’m saying – just hoping experience finds text.  Immaterial materializing.  We might get “something to work with.”  I don’t understand any of it.

Sitting then, in the sweet Kansas day, 20/30 years of my life gained a traction.  “Meaning-making,” to make meaning, was obscuring infinite unknowns.  Underlying such a contention – that meaning is made – swum its absence = there’s no meaning “there.”

“Person-hood” aptly decreed – “person” a “hood” that we wear.  “Person-ality” – some ability we possess to appear as in situations.  “Meaning” – a something we might craft to suit our unaccountable occurrences.  I don’t mean anything, significance is made.  If I’m lucky the people around me choose to do so with my existence.  Otherwise it’s matter of course.  We’re Matter…of course.  But who knows?  Also the problem of “knowledge” – the only “knowledge” we have is our own and some idiosyncratic communal bastardization of what our Species has MADE.

Not quite nihilism.  Just meaninglessness.

I like the idea of “meaning-making” – finding it in the relation of atoms, of stars, of humans and beasts.  Of dreams and delusions, of science.  I like “knowledge” – created cultural artifacts and residue, flotsam & jetsam, structures and practical theories.  AND it would seem it obscures what surrounds.  For every academic discipline that drills its way into a world we experience (as humans) and stacks up hypotheses and –pedias…there’s still the wide world there from every other perspective and experience – the ant, paramecium, subatomic particle, sky.  Your spouse or your child, parent or friend, or the foreign, the stranger, the Other, the “them.”

Myopia.  Perception.  The experience of meaning.  Attribution of significance.  What matters in matter to ME.  IF matter – for even matter’s a human contribution to what seems to be.

Perhaps it comes down to particularized –“hoods” and “-abilities” – “each one’s” momentary personhood and personality – whether experience is an occasion to “make meaning” or glide on in its unnecessary meaninglessness.  I don’t know.

What remains is my deranged and crazy compulsion – my “hood” I guess, and ability.

So many words come to mind.

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8 thoughts on “Meaning-Making in Living Systems, or, 15,000 Things

  1. Today’s world, and my own world, sometimes I feel I am lost… what, where, why… and I think that I don’t know anything… or everything was wrong… what more, is there a way still to begin again… or… nothing. When I read you dear N Filbert, you always make me excited, s if you are being an echo of today’s chaos…I really don’t know how to explain more… Thank you, Love, nia

  2. trying to get it all down on paper. this piece effectively shows how alluring and impossible that is. i enjoy the refrain of the “sweet Kansas day,” which provides a setting for the ruminations. having lived in southwestern Kansas a lifetime ago, i remember how terrible the weather often was, and so how very sweet a beautiful Kansas day can be.

  3. This is a little abstract for me Nathan but I think the trouble with “finding” meaning is that it is only relative while its happening. Blink and it changes into another of those 15,000 things. Slippery bugger. You can only be part of it while it is happening or take someone’s word that it has happened to them and then look to see if you might be part of what’s happening ( if it still is happening and hasn’t changed into another of those 15,000 things) which may be just as good as long as it has meaning for you. I’ve been eating an orange and an avocado together for lunch. No cooking! Great with a little honey.

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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