Tag Archives: Meaning

Investing vs. Spending Time

There is a difference between spending time and investing time. One requires sacrifice but pays dividends greater than the investment cost, in the long run. The other wastes that opportunity on the altar of immediate payoffs and increases dependency and instability. There is any number of organizations whose existence is based on encouraging the wasting of time. Seth Godin argues in this video that we have built cultural practices and various monuments and institutions to reinforce this waste of the many for the benefit of the few to such a degree that we now willingly defend the very systems that cheapen our life. His alternative is what he calls “Impact Theory”.

Why You’ve Been Lied to About Where to Put Your Time, Energy, & Focus | Seth Godin on Impact Theory

“Let’s say I had a secret committee and I came to the government to the United States, or any place in the west, in 1850 and said; “Here’s what I want to do. I want to spend over a trillion dollars a year in time and money and I want every single child from the age of five to spend six to eight hours a day with me for 10 to 15 years in a row. Then I want to build into the culture a mindset of consumption and compliance. Okay?” No one would go for that plan and that’s exactly what we did.”

The Origin of Meaning and Purpose

Old vintage typewriter

As far as I can tell, the same way we woke up from verbal oblivion as children into an ongoing story, we also did so as a species. We drape our abstract symbols in the form of words and stories over an already ongoing story expressed through nature. Nature is meaningful communication. As natural objects, we are also expressions of this meaning and we also express meaning. In other words; we are made in the image of nature.

The common thread running through all coherent structures in nature is built on the necessary operating principle; behaviors must effectively nourish and defend the integrity of the structure in the context of a variable environment. In other words; there is a necessity of purposeful behaviors that must serve to proportionally nourish and defend coherence for a coherent object to exist in nature. This theme is what defines our nature by necessity. We are built on a “nourish and defend in the context of the environment” theme, otherwise, we would not exist. This is true of all objects in nature whether active or passive.

We had to negotiate to remain coherent in the context of a variable environment which contained intermittent nourishment and various antagonists. This is our history and the story of every coherent entity in nature. This “nourishing and defending” behavioral trait is the essence on which we build our meaning architecture. It is what our verbal language is built on. We build low-resolution abstract maps that stand-in for what is expressed through nature the same way we use the arbitrary word “stone” as an abstract stand-in for a class of objects that could have any name. Various languages have different symbols, but our common object source – nature – is the same. This is where the transcendent theme of meaning infuses all linguistic forms. Even though we use different superficial symbols, we have a common source from which we build our abstract meaning architecture.

Loosely speaking, we translate what is communicated through the object “nature” into subject form. We see a mapping process expressed in the form of the various words, stories, and rituals we act out that become cyclic parts of our individual and cultural identity. Like the spherical cells that build our organs, our ideas form the abstract monuments to this necessary nourish and defend theme that is communicated through nature. Verbal language is the way we frame nature in a symbolic map form. Our maps of meaning represent the territory we must negotiate to nourish and defend ourselves over time. This map – this story representing nature – was formed on the object “nature”. The “story” was already encoded as an ongoing story long before we began decoding it into verbal abstract maps.

Nature communicates meaning (subjects) by way of objects in relationship with each other. We are in a discovery process of this undercurrent of meaning expressed through nature, even if we are unaware of it because we’re lost in our maps – lost in our own little words. We are a reflected image of the inherent value propositions expressed by nature – the proposition of nourish and defend coherency that exists by necessity and defines every coherent collection of relationships – This proposition is; relationships that exist over time are those that contribute some nourishment and-or defensive value to serve the coherency of the whole object in the context of the larger variable environment. Atoms, planets, stars, and galaxies are expressions of this nourish and-or defend necessity, as are organisms.

One of the expressions of this necessary devotion to coherency we see in ourselves is that we must now cultivate the garden that feeds us, otherwise, we starve. We have long since passed nature’s uncultivated carrying capacity. Uncultivated, it cannot support our current population levels. As a result, we must increasingly become active participants in cultivating this the mutualistic relationships that sustain us. Our values and behaviors must support “fruitful” activities. The necessity of behavior and organizational structure varies by context but must follow this common root theme. “Nourish and defend coherency”. This is the grammar on which all language is built.

Our human sociality and various other biological drives, along with language and other forms of memorizing the map of the territory we must negotiate all exist in service of coherence. Breathing, hunger, digestion, our innate reactions to things and all other biologically expressed drives are aligned around this central theme. What we call meaning is an intuitive capacity to capture the ongoing story already expressed by nature in the form of an abstract map. We then nourish and defend our map as part of the same natural inclination to nourish and defend.

The things we are attracted to and repulsed by, and all behavioral expressions we act out are either directly or indirectly are variations on this nourish and defend theme – we are players in the story as long as we effectively attend to this nourish and defend theme in the context of the environment. If we lose our way – if we lose our capacity to nourish and defend coherency in the context of the environment, we are swallowed by something else that does it better. Nature is on a relentless path toward greater coherency. Whether our biological form is transitory or whether it will continue to develop over time as part of the ongoing story depends on whether we are organized around the necessity to proportionally nourish and defend our coherency in the context of the variables of the environment.

Nature’s range of propositions about how to contend with the realities of remaining coherent exists on a spectrum between bloody and bloodier. It is not a proposition between perfect and imperfect. All acts in service of coherence have a sacrificial component to them. We must sacrifice ourselves to the next generation as the next generation must sacrifice itself to the community and so on.

As individuals, finding some nourishing and or protective value to contribute to the larger relationship economy that we live in and depend on is what our biological drives are all about at their core. To align ourselves with this is a recipe for a meaningful life. If we do not, we will live dissatisfied no matter how many trinkets we acquire. This is why we have never met anyone who is both malignantly selfish and satisfied. We’re not wired that way for a reason. It destroys the relationship economy we depend on.

We are expressions of biological and social systems oriented around nourishment and defense, but we also see this expressed in many various forms throughout nature, including microorganisms, which contend with the same propositions on a micro-scale that we do on a macro scale. It is a nested architecture built on a common theme with an infinite variety of possible variations – just like every language is a finite set of symbols that can form an infinite variety of meanings – that can call order from chaos. We appear to be expressions of this common theme.

I could be missing something(s)

To Save Others, Bacteria Can Self-Destruct When Infected by a Virus


Does life require a purpose?

Nebula Art

Does life require a purpose? I suppose how we define purpose and life is important if we are to attempt an answer that is satisfactorily supported with evidence. Here’s my sketchy take on the subject.

All coherent objects in nature must have some capacity to nourish and or defend their coherence in the context of the environmental womb in which it is situated, otherwise it would not exist over time. In our case, we are nested layers of sophisticated behavioral architectures that support this continuing coherence. The behaviors involve things of adaptive value such as breathing, drinking, eating, obtaining shelter, as well forming social bonds, mating and the like because of the adaptive (purposeful) advantage of these behaviors. This macro behavior, along with a host of micro internal relationships carry out a singular purposeful theme of nourishing and or defending coherence. This is expressed on many levels with many variations built around this unified theme of nourishing and-or defending coherence in the context of the environment. This is what defines a coherent entity, whether an idea, what is communicated by the totality of behaviors we express through our life.

The inherent purpose communicated through our nature is why we are not satisfied unless we do something significant – something of nourishing and-or protective value with respect to the common body of relationships we live in, are part of, and depend on for life. Finding that thing we can do to contribute to the nourishing and or protective value to the community of relationships that defines our common experience of life is a story written right into the fabric of life. We never meet persons who are both malignantly selfish and satisfied at the same time. This inherent purpose written into the complex dynamic coherent structures such as ourselves sets the tone for whether we will be satisfied or frustrated, whether we will do what is significant, or move on the currents in meaningless directions.

Here is a look at some “nourish and defend” activity on a molecular scale.

Where is the Meaning of Life Located?

What Is The Meaning of Life

As far as I can tell, things like rights, beauty, love, money, and all our notions of gods, good, evil and so on, are the various subjects (stories) we derive from the common object of (nature). We make maps as symbolic descriptions of nature as a territory, then use the maps as a means to perceive the meaning of the relationships between objects. In other words; nature is objects in relationship with each other, but these relationship processes also convey meaning – the same way the relationship between letters and words or sounds convey meaning.

Nature is the base line grammatical engine on which all meaning (language) is built. It is also a language in and of itself. The same way many verbal languages can emerge from a grammatical foundation like a limited set of syllabic sounds, we form our various maps of nature based on the context of the heritage of our experience communicated through our various local environments over time. Objects in relationship with each other over time is the essence of story as far as I can tell. We can not have one (subject) without the other (object). The need for a relationship between two or more entities in order for the birth of meaning to take place is perhaps the archetype of what we frame as male-female – yin-yang mother-child and so on. This meaningful aspect of nature we map out in our myths and also describe as process through our scientific lens is built on this universal grammar.

As meaning generators ourselves, we reflect the nature of nature, despite our occasional delusion that we are independent of the whole. This should perhaps come as no surprise even though it appears to for many of us. Specific order conveys coherent meanings, and to the degree we are ordered, we also convey coherent meaning. Nature conveys story through objects in relationship with each other over time and we interpret this objective dynamic process as subject.

The null hypothesis is a statistical test that suggests there’s no significant difference between specified populations or sets of things; that any observed differences are due to sampling or experimental error. It says we see things as an artifact of how we categorize them. Any truth that can be derived from any “object” in nature depends on that object’s relationship to other objects, even if that other object is the whole of nature. We examine facets – pieces- subsets of nature – that we classify by category, and out of that perception of object in relationship to other object we find meaning. The fact that we must divide nature in order for any facets of meaningful difference to emerge points to the fact that a relationship between two or more objects is necessary for meaning to exist at all. Without the relationship between two or more objects there is no “word” no meaning.

The fact that our organs operate as a community of objects that act to nourish and defend each other’s coherency is more than a process, it is a meaningful story of how coherent structures sustain themselves; whether we decode that message plainly by way of our abstract maps or not does not dismiss the fact it conveys meaning. The fact that we are not fulfilled as mature beings unless we find a way to contribute meaningfully in the context of the community we live in and depend on for life is rooted in the fact that we are unable to act against our nature as mature adults – with excessive selfish intent, taking from our community without giving back something that generates greater value in return – and also be satisfied. The fact that we become depressed when we’re not participating in something larger than ourselves is a statement by nature through our native drives that we hunger for meaning – for a larger coherency. We are simply not wired to be satisfied this without meaningful connections to a greater whole. These aspects of a satisfied life and unsatisfied life is clearly mapped in our biology, but also through the mythic story of Cain and Abel; where one was satisfied by giving his best, and the other was not due to doing the minimal. Are these people literally true? Maybe, maybe not, but they are metaphorically sound with the message conveyed through objective nature about who we are and what constitutes a pathway to a satisfied life. To deny this seems to me as incoherent as to deny gravity.

Our cultural myths (stories) throughout time and place are symbolic maps of the world and the cosmos. We use them to craft an image of our place in the context of this larger environmental womb of nature – as a way to reflect our understanding of this “almighty” womb of nature we’re in – that forms us of the dust of the Earth – that gave birth to all things – that nourishes and feeds us and will yield its strength if we cultivate fruitful outcomes, which are rendered through specific nourishing and protective actions along with a certain level of sacrifice and so on over time. This nature, to which we must sacrifice to in order to cultivate a more abundant life speaks of itself in and through the way objects relate to each other. These cultural myths we have formed over the years have embedded within them things like our objective need for a relationship with each other and our world because of how we have been defined (created) by this thing – this greater being; nature.

The fact that we need to tend this garden of living fire with enough intentional cultivation to sustain our collective body, our species, or there will be consequences is conveyed through the process. Our origins, and a projection of our destiny based on how we negotiate in the context of this relationship economy is also conveyed through the process. These subjective words we stitch together as symbolic maps of the territory are not mere descriptions of process alone, they also convey meaningful concepts. We make symbolic tokens that can stand for the territory we are in – this economy of “being”. These maps are how we negotiate our relationship with self other and the world whether we couch it in terms of governments and constitutions and laws, or in the form of mythic stories.

Along with being defined by nature, our maps can also define how we experience “being”. The same way nature creates by way of object within certain boundaries, we can create by way of subject. While I would agree the map is not the territory, and that the claims of literal truth made by certain religions could be argued as objectively untrue or unprovable, we simply cannot know from our perspective, which is why these things are the domain of faith, at the same time, money is not money unless we agree it is money. We shape our experience in objectively true ways through concepts – through meaning. Meanings themselves can take on the form of objects in relation to one another and create a nested architecture of meaning. The same way each language has it’s own word for stone, yet there is only one objective stone to which all these various concepts point, each mythos subject attempts to encapsulate the properties of nature in abstract terms. Each has a a unique map that conceptualized the same source – nature, which is both object and subject.

To suggest that anything not tied to a description of process, which is the domain of science, is valueless and incoherent misses the point as much as claiming subjective truths are objectively true. We can get lost in our maps by mistaking them for objects, but we can also get lost in process by mistaking that for subject, when it is the inseparable relationship between the two that defines what we experience as “being”. We can be the authors of our own poverty, or cultivators of our grandest success depending on how we relate to each other – how we participate in subject making process.

We generate meaning by the way we relate to each other. We also have the opportunity to generate more abundant meaning by how coherently we relate – how much we nourish and protect each other and the common body of life we depend on to sustain us as a single meaningful coherent whole in service of a greater whole. This nested architecture of meaning conveyed through the process of nature is a meaningful guide to a meaningful life if we have the ears to hear the message. Whether we understand it or not, the meaning is clearly conveyed: that objects in relationship with each other over time is the essence of how we experience every story, including our own.

I could be missing something(s)