Long Line: On meaning making

This post is part of a series of posts pulled from a piece of writing I completed in November 2012. For more information on this series, see this post.

Context | Looking Back | Transformation | Looking Back at the Looking Back | Questions | On ethics | Letting Go of Nothing | Taking on Subject and Objects | On meaning making | Why the language of causality trouble me | Conceptual versus Empirical | Futuring | Temporality and Time | Brief Note | Back to Time | What to do with the Past | Some tools to help us be | An example from my past | Avoiding Labels | The educational turn | Being and curriculum | Curriculum of Being | Curriculum Futuring | On dispositions as ways of being | Being and pedagogy | Being and technology | Being and the body | References

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On meaning making

You really can never go home again. Once you see, hear, feel, “get” that we cannot help but make meaning, life, scholarship, theories, philosophies, education, curriculum, just does not look the same. You cannot be the same. Actually - you can be the same, but you have to choose to be the same and acknowledge the choice.

I feel as these paragraphs add up we get deeper and deeper, going under layer and layer of language. Meaning is close to the “bottom” (if there is a bottom), but it has an interesting relationship with our presuppositions. Maybe an example will be better to demonstrate this idea. Starting simple: Rick glances outside and checks the sky above us on Burnaby Mountain. “Looks like it is going to rain this morning.” I reply, “Oh, really?” “Yeah, we’ve got heavy clouds.” Ah, the meaning becomes clear. Clouds = rain. But what is actually present? What is actually “so”? There are clouds in the sky on/above Burnaby Mountain. What does that mean? Rick has taken the presence of clouds on the mountain to mean that it is going to rain. But that is not necessarily so. Clouds could mean fog, snow, or nothing; they could be just clouds. Rick assigned the meaning to the clouds, not the clouds.

Now, let’s come at this from the cloud’s perspective (for argument’s sake). Let’s assume that clouds can “speak” and that we can “hear” them. Actually, this is not too far-fetched considering how seriously we take meteorologists on television. Clouds “speak” to us through satellite images, temperatures, moisture density, and wind reports. All of these speakings are transmitted via our technologies, technologies created by human beings. Is the cloud speaking to us? If we zoom in closer, very close actually, imagine the meteorologist seated in front of his computer screen. He views the satellite images, checks the temperatures, moisture and wind reports, and then he assigns meaning to the data to share with the public. The cloud is speaking, via the technologies, via the human being, via the technologies, and finally to the viewer... who then makes meaning of the language that the meteorologist uses to explain what he (thinks he) means in his weather report.

Exasperated? How can we get away from all this complexity surrounding meaning? We can’t. Even as you absorb the command: “Don’t making meaning of this sentence!” you have already done it. So what do we do? We become aware of how we make meaning. We become aware of the assumptions that we make. And we take responsibility for ourselves and who we are in the world and with others.

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