a morning’s epistemological musing about making meaning

thinking(For years, I usually have begun my days awaking, then being aware when my brain “kicks in”, that is, when I’m conscious that I’m thinking, then musing about that initial thought, following where it leads. This morning, I awoke thinking about…)

The act of living necessitates the art of making meaning. In each encounter with the people and the circumstances around me and the thoughts and feelings within me (adding instantaneously to my ever increasing personal history and set of memories), I use my senses to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, and my intuition to perceive above and beneath, in and around all things. My perceptions and observations then take shape in my perspectives and opinions; all of it giving shape to my awareness of reality.

British journalist and intellectual historian Peter Watson, in his recent book, The Age of Atheism: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God, explores how humans have navigated life’s pilgrimage since Friedrich Nietzsche’s 19th century declaration. Watson, neither a critic of organized religion’s historic abuses nor a champion of scientific rationalism, avers that we, through whatever the ideology or philosophy, movement or methodology, art or science, beyond the satisfaction of our biological needs, have hungered to make meaning of ourselves in this life in this world.

Making meaning. Without this constant, common labor of life (of love) my existence can appear to be, and perhaps can be nothing else than a random series of unrelated events, the only connection being that I am the one living through them. And as I always, oft imperceptibly, am engaged in this task, it is essential that I reflect with conscious regularity on my experiences as I continue to be and to become who I am.

Now, honesty compels my confession that much of the time the meaning I make validates the worldview I already have conceived and constructed. Of course, at every occasion I can’t afford absentmindedly or, worse, apathetically to abandon my point of view. In order to be and to continue to become someone, I must stand somewhere; not everywhere and surely not all over the place.

Still, the problem, the danger is that my perspective, particularly concerning how I see myself, can take on a life of its own: covering, blinding my vision, holding, locking me in place to that point that I dismiss as nonsense anything (or anyone) that doesn’t square with my perceptions…

Until I am stirred, shaken out of the comfortability, the complacency of my outlook by something so “other” that I can’t ignore it and, thus, must try to make sense of it. And this happens to (in) me whenever I travel to a different land and dwell amongst a different people or perceive with my physical or intuitive senses an experience, an idea or a belief diametrically different from anything with which I am familiar, knowledgeable, certain, or even can imagine.

And this happens all the time, for life – complex, confounding, and uncontrollable – never lets me rest in the contentment of my conceit.

Thank God!

2 thoughts on “a morning’s epistemological musing about making meaning

  1. Love this!! And love the fact that you CAN be shaken out of what’s comfortable for you and that you aren’t stuck in the contentment of your conceit. I find you to be open and a great listener even in situations you may not totally understand and agree with. I count that as you continuing to grow and become.

    There are times that it wasn’t even necessary for me to go out of the country for me to feel at odds with something, and shaken by the “other” who were drastically different from me. It takes me a moment to get “unshaken” and to continue to live and make meaning out of everything that does make sense to me even if it is different. And as you said, Thank God for that!!


  2. Loretta, I love your comment: “It takes me a moment to get ‘unshaken’ and to continue to live and make meaning out of everything that does make sense to me even if it is different”. I especially appreciate your phrase, “…everything that does make sense…even if it is different.” I find this remarkable. That is, being able to acknowledge the sense of something though it presents itself as “other”. A wonderful capacity. For, I believe, that typically what presents itself as “other” I tend first to reject and it takes far more than a moment for me to become (or to find myself) “unshaken”. Thus, on immediate reflection, I think this post was spawned and has sprung from an unconscious place within me, now to awareness, of one of my (many) growing edges.


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