This is a site of spiritual stories where comments are welcome.
The inner world of spirituality and the outer world of material things appear different from each other but they are forever tied together by the One interconnected world of meaning.
Most of us want a life full of meaning.
This is usually how we think about meaning – as fullness. Yet life may be full and we are still miserable. So what kind of meaning makes us miserable and what kind gives us a sense of well-being?
Most people do not realize they have a choice about making meaning. Meaning is usually assumed to be like the wind – blowing ill or well, but beyond our control.
Yet making meaning is something we humans do naturally and well. So what kind of meaning would we like to make and what kind do we actually make?
There are three broad ways we can make meaning of the world and ourselves. The first is with a narrow focus on our desires; the second is by having a focus on rational abstractions; and the third is when we focus on relations and interconnections. These three can be called: desire; reason; and empathy.
What sort of meaning do we make when we focus on material things? The meaning that is made from such a focus divides, splits and fragments an exclusive outer world. This kind of meaning making comes from a focus on rational abstraction that can also produce a hard-edged morality as well as a dead, objective universe that is seen to be separate from the inner world of the individual. A similar separating reality comes from an exclusive focus on our desires that mix with the abstractions of a financial bottom line.
The faith of those who seek connections and empathy is based upon making meaning that integrates, unifies and connects. From this kind of meaning making comes the reality of an interconnected and participatory universe in which there are no splits or separations between inner and outer worlds. This is the world of the ‘good Samaritan’ or a community that produces a high level of social capital.
The apparent difference between the inner and outer world is not based upon fact, history or rational argument. Rather, this difference comes down to the kind of meaning we choose to make about the world and ourselves.
The choice of what kind of meaning we make and the faith that comes from it rests in our own hands. We are free to make meaning that connects our inner and outer worlds. In contrast, we can choose to make meaning that separates and divides these worlds into their own exclusive, alienated domains.
This choice of meaning making is between organized meaning on the one hand and disorganized meaning on the other, or between the connections of empathy and the separating alienation of desire and reason. This is a choice we should not neglect or passively pass over to other people, no matter their status or station in life. Meaning making is never a set-in-concrete given even when it comes to the inevitable events of birth and death.
Stories and songs create meanings that connect and unify
Stories and songs are created by using language within a culture, so these two contexts play an important role in the way we express ourselves and make meaning. (For more see Language and Culture)
Humans are word-binders – unlike other life forms we have a second signal system as well as a system of conditioned reflexes, which is the first signal system. With the second signal system we combine words to make language to create meaning by telling stories or singing songs.
We make meaning by the connections and differences we weave with the language we use. The meanings we make are open or closed or usually a combination of both.
The more open the language the more connections we make and so the fuller the meaning and the broader our vision. The more closed the language the greater the differences and separations we create and hence, the more surface the meaning and the narrower our view.
The breadth or narrowness of our vision is our choice and it is made by the kind of language we use to exchange meaning with others.
A cultural context can retard or help liberate our vision by reinforcing the language we use to make meaning. A learning culture that is open, tolerant and democratic provides a good context for open, tolerant connecting language that creates full and/or multiple levels of meaning.
In contrast, a culture that is repressive, suppressive, exclusive or focused on material objects tends towards closed meanings and hence, supports a narrow vision and meaning making that splits and separates.
Spirit is the territory of infinite connections of meaning.
Our cultural tradition can point us forward towards infinite meaning through spiritual songs and expressions or in contrast, our culture can inhibit our ability to address the questions of meaning or have a unifying spiritual vision.
Stories and songs about spirit and spirituality make our lives more meaningful and satisfying because they honor empathy and create a greater number of connections than do stories about celebrities, or material wealth, or machines, or consumption, or moral rectitude, or a dead physical universe.
The authors of this site are Andrew and Amanda Lohrey. Andrew meditates and has a PhD in philosophy. He has written several books and a series of papers on meaning and consciousness.
Amanda is a multi-award winning author and one of Australia’s leading writers of fiction and non-fiction. Amanda also meditates.