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.