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Spectra of Meanings (or “Can words wobble?”) Part 1

Date: 06 April 2010
Category: Uncategorized

Ever since I was a boy, I have felt that words do not have the effect that people assume they have. For a start everyone has a slightly different take on what a word means, and that may vary from one day or occasion to the next. Lets start with a concrete wobble of an example, the 3 words: information, knowledge and wisdom. For me these 3 words are a fuzzy continuum. a spectrum of meaning. At the information end there is dry data, but the word can also mean knowledge – something with more substance, it can mean something more to do with the self-possession that comes with understanding something. Wisdom for me is on the other side of knowledge from information. It feels more to do with consciousness and presence of understanding. Knowledge has always felt to me like a halfway house toward knowing ‘things’ rather than having a mature capacity to contain an alive perception of the means to deal beautifully with life. I observe though that each of these 3 words is bent, prised, wobbled into meanings that are more often associated with the other 2.

We could say that wisdom is more a disembodied presence or capacity than knowledge – which is half way to the teeming multiplicity of the contents of consciousness. Knowledge is then more to do with the beholding and the possessing of  the multiplicity compared to information which is more seen as contents. Download is often used to mean intution or realisation – in the sense that it suggests a substantial experience or insight of the kind that a video or piece of software might contribute to the viewer/user.

These meaning spectra ultimately will cause trouble to our desire to have an objective view of things. I don’t care. We’ve lived with the desire for rational certainty for so long now we could well do with a permanent holiday from it! My concern is that celebration, exploration and joyful creativity be the modus operandi. Rational certainty!! – be dethroned in favour of honouring each other (nation states included!!) Never mind objective impersonal consensus reality. The universe is a symbol, and a host of symbols. Tell the scientist buried in his dream of the symbols.

I could explore meaning spectra in huger depth, but there is a more important vein of truth to uncover here. That is the reason we communicate. So often I hear folk being inflexible about what the words they are using mean. If we’re able to have a knowledge (or perhaps a wisdom, or imbibe certain information) of the wobble, the flexing, the scope of imprecision, the fluctuation of meaning within even a single innocent word, we are fortifying ourselves to be able to communicate with others without getting caught up in the dispute on who has the right understanding. We can say “yes, and there is also this interpretation that illuminates further…….”. In other words, we can step out of the wobbles and look at the meaning flow with much more humanity and caring for understanding.

I have heard folk use “information” to describe even inspiration. “The information was flowing in that direction…….” has been said of the inspiration that can move from serious (so-called , another wobbled meaning) music to more popular. We could think of each word or meaning as a point on a sphere, with their neighbours depicted as spatial neighbours on the surface. Meaning and presence are for me very close, sometimes meaning can strangle presence. Even the sphere is likely to break down, as the connections from one word to another are so numerous that I doubt all the connections could be represented in 3 dimensions. It will be interesting to see if there is ever a model for how the brain manages to store all the connections between meanings, whether there is a space, even multi-dimensional that it holds within it. What I propose is that these meaning spectra as I call them are best represented not by a thesaurus but by a poetic or prose exploration of the manner in which their wobbles happen. Or I could imagine a sphere with a cascade of meaning flowing from the centre to the edge where the connections resonate with each other. Meaning as energetic fountain.

Anyhow, this is the first blog on meaning spectra. I hope to write about other meaning spectra. The next one will be struggle-effort-striving  - another can of worms especially for folk that try to understand the contrasts between stressful and joyous activity. A lot of unconscious wobble is talked with these words. I also hope to use meaning spectra as a way to encourage more understanding of compassion in understanding what others say and write.

3 responses to Spectra of Meanings (or “Can words wobble?”) Part 1

  • Howard Roberts says:

    There is a lot here. The wobble keeps flipping over to different modes of discourse. Links, once antagonistic, are assumed relevant.
    Is this the fault of info-entrapment or info-deciphering, knowledge certitude or ignorance, or wiseacre tactics or enlightenment?
    Or is it the natural level of thought discernment which any society, group or individual reaches in confronting the object/subject world?
    Information has a measured value of quantity and flow which reaches its apex in consensus or is replaced with other data formation.
    The brain is the modeling station for the imprints and verification of data. It is where the neural tags for identification, enlargement, comparison and framing are marketed.
    In the interstices between the brain’s synapse explosions and the body’s sensorium of habits and impulses, knowledge is given cognizance. This knowledge is the transfered impressions that fill us with memories as signifier information and as conceptualizations.
    Wisdom is the emerging transcendence of a witness to the interaction of information and knowledge.
    Wisdom is the reconciliation of the brain and the mind in this present moment.

    • Hi Howard,
      You have expressed your poetic definitions of the three words I chose as examples of a spectrum of meaning, but you did not pick up on the idea of definitions by linking or contrasting 2 words, or the technique to get behind the flexible meanings of two or more words to share something more substantial in conversations.
      I’m curious to know if you understood what I was saying about spectra of meaning and the subjectivity of the precision of meaning.
      Its an alternative way of making a dictionary poetically, yes, but much more.
      Good of you to reply appreciatively, best wishes Lawrence

  • Howard Roberts says:

    Spectra to me means variation.
    How one chooses which tone is dependent on hearing.
    Also: the variation is a result of vibrations in nature.
    Subjects are illusions.
    But the resonances between subjects and the world have meaning.
    Defining these resonances as definitions or even limiting them to
    polarities or enclosed shadow and light shows, can be very precise;
    but meaningless in the vast panoply of variations of experience.
    Asking ourselves what we mean is like a dog chasing it’s own tail.
    Allowing meanings to enter the process without interference
    seems a more open approach.
    What do you think/and what do you not think about this ?

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