The Web of Meaning

“Meaning” is about causes and effects, attributes and relationships.   Meaning gives rise to all ideas of good and bad, help and harm, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, smart and dumb,  and context and relevance.

All meaning comes from a web of relationships.

Relationships exist in nature: expressed in the “laws of nature” and in and between all non-living substances and objects, and in and between all living beings, including relationships in and between our bodies, our ideas and minds, our societies and cultures and sub-cultures.

The combination of all webs, known and unknown, is called the World, the Universe.

An identity is defined by a particular combination of webs of relationship, which gives rise to a particular perspective.  “I” am one such perspective.  “You” are another.   The intersection  of my perspective and yours is our perspective.  Everything else is theirs, or unknown.

Words with essentially the same meaning as these have been expressed over and over, beginning no later than three thousand years ago.  More recently, similar ideas have been expressed by at least a few million people.

The ideas have been expressed in abstractions like these, and in rich, moving detail in myth, stories and reflections, in philosophies, religious texts, poems, novels, blog posts.  To some, abstractions are dry; to others they are juicy.   Having many expressions is vital.

What are the implications of this understanding?  What can we do and achieve with it?

An answer:  The more we understand this, individually and collectively, the more likely we will be to honor other perspectives, and to want to work together to come up with better perspectives, giving rise to better solutions.  Our future depends on this happening.

Is this true?

If so, what actions and transformations are necessary to bring this about?

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3 Responses to “The Web of Meaning”


  1. 1 Doug Mackey June 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    The only problem is, if I am swimming on the surface of the ocean and you are swimming on the surface of the ocean, we can trade information from our perspectives all day and we will never have any information about what is underwater. So mere multiplicity of perspectives does not guarantee insight. In fact, if you start out without an intuition of truth (e.g., that there is a large area underwater I don’t know about), examining multiple perspectives can actually be misleading, because everyone’s superficial “truth” will drown out your chance of really getting to the truth. So don’t get caught in the spider web of relationships! That’s a trap. That is not to say we do not attempt to learn about and understand other perspectives in all the usual ways. But to really achieve better perspectives we have to finally step out of the web altogether. Whatever that takes. And sometimes it means to break our connection to the collective and start listening to ourself again!

  2. 2 duncanwork June 13, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Hi Doug – thanks for your perspective! Is yours a perspective from inside the web or outside the web? Or probably some of both?

    You raise a good point that leads to an important answer to my question: What transformations are necessary to bring “this” about – that is, the ability for people and groups with different perspectives to think together creatively, rather than destructively?

    Your point is – people have to ultimately get outside of the web (of perception and meaning) entirely. If you don’t know how, or can’t even imagine it, that’s not so easy.

    The first step, though, is to be able to step back from your own perspective enough to really understand someone else’s perspective. This is an initial type of “suspension” or “detachment” that can also be very difficult for many people; but it’s still the best first step. To suspend your own perspective, you don’t have to throw it away; you just step back, in order to listen more clearly. Stepping back can also be seen as at least an initial expansion of awareness – or in your terms – diving a little deeper than the surface of the water.

    This is the first step in transformation from opposition to dialogue. Some see it also as a first step towards enlightenment. In the terms of enlightenment, the “ego” is the small self that tries to protect its boundaries at all costs. Enlightenment is the realization of one’s true “Self” to be unbounded awareness, which is something infinitely greater than and beyond any individual perspective. People who are regularly able to experience the source of their own consciousness as unbounded, pure awareness are much readier to engage in true dialogue with others. Fortunately, though, it’s not required that every person have near that level of experience in order to learn to step back, listen, and dialogue.

    One of the main principles of collective intelligence (or collective consciousness) is that you have to start with all the perspectives in the same “room” together. That doesn’t meant that you can simply mash all the existing perspectives together (or compromise them into mush). What it means is that each person has some knowledge and some wisdom that others don’t have. If you can bring together lots of perspectives you have many more clues to work with – including clues about everyone’s motivations and worries, as well as the problems they see and the solutions they’re able to think of, If such a situation is conducive to dialogue, then true creativity – diving collectively deeper — can occur.


  1. 1 Excellence « creatingreciprocity Trackback on December 5, 2011 at 8:01 am

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