Let’s say that you’ve agreed with Korzybski that “The Map is Not the Territory,” or maybe Lao Tzu that “The Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao.”
It has become clear that what humans can think about is their own personal map of reality, and not the really real reality “out there.”
As insightful or profound as anybody might be, reality just doesn’t fit into anybody’s head. Only a sort of representation of reality can squeeze between our ears, and while Stephen Hawking or Stephen Colbert may have mapped some things out that make sense to you, nobody can cram the whole universe into their brain.
“Don’t Eat the Menu”
People stop looking at what is going on, and cling to their ideas of how the world works all the time. We get lost in our own heads, and forget that even the words we know to be most true are a form of symbol. A glossy photograph of a dripping cheeseburger could make you salivate, but it only -represents- the “world out there” you can bite.
We tend to cling to our own maps of belief, especially when the world seems scary or tough to figure out. That’s a natural thing because without our own sense of reality and its corresponding morality, we’d be lost.
This would explain why everybody seems to live in their own little world. Because we do. At least, our minds live inside little 3D globes illustrating reality. Anything we can think about is part of our own map that was created by our own experiences. In that sense we all have access to our very own set of “facts.” There are different maps in our heads.
That’s why you see all those posts on Facebook that make you slap your forehead.
Is there any way to see how all these maps relate to each other, or is mankind forever doomed to wage wars between various moralities and realities?
Can all human experiences and their resulting mind-models of “what is real” be explained as physical phenomena?
That may seem like a worthwhile pursuit to those of us who consider ourselves rational or scientific. Heck, maybe we could even clarify the debates between “objective” and “subjective” forms of reality in philosophy. We might see a relationship between all forms of science and all forms of religion, to boot.
All of that may sound really great.
However, if you’re a human being trying to figure out how belief and meaning works, you’re looking for “the thing that makes meaning and truth” with a human mind – and your mind is “the thing that makes meaning and truth.”
We all have something we know to be meaningful and sacred within us, and it may be “existentially excruciating” if we happen to tear it up at the roots while digging around to see how people make meaning.
If you follow a line of reasoning that connects biology to psychology looking for explanations and patterns in “mankind’s behavior of creating forms of meaning” like those valued by Logotherapy, you might explain the nature and origin of dualism to yourself and ultimately see meaningful relationship between all fields of human endeavor – but don’t get stuck halfway because it really sucks.
Any earnest attempt to continue along this path of reasoning may bring your mind to territory where the significance and import of all human forms of meaning fall away. Our lives are sustained by our own meaning the way our bodies are sustained by water, and your conscious mind may at some point constrict the flow of meaning that sustains you personally.
There are very good reasons why most philosophies and sciences have steered awareness away from this place, and why strong emotions pull our lines of reasoning in other directions to avoid conclusions like the ones you may begin to reach. It could be said that, in the sense of evolutionary psychology, safeguards are in place specifically to -prevent- us from consciously evaluating the nature and origin of meaning.
The rivers which quench the human thirst for significance and purpose dry up once we reach this dusty land. In a place halfway across the world from theological territory is a polar extreme. While the sun illuminates the physical world of objects in harsh white light here, there is no shelter for your soul. Most men, and even the most intrepid of thinkers, will turn right around once their toes dip into this barren soil where nothing valued may grow.
If your goal is intellectual sight-seeing, by all means, wander near this desert of meaning and survey the formation of dunes that stretch across the horizon. Then go back to your hotel and jump in the pool of your chosen belief system.
If your goal is the “attainment of truth,” however – do one of two things:
Stay far away from the desert. Be a poet. Be a mechanic. Not both.
Be prepared for a long, hard journey in which all that you love in yourself and everyone else, may wither and nearly die from a thirst for significance.
On the other side of this desert is a land more bountiful and rich than you may ever have imagined, a place where meaning and connection with all people in all times and places springs pure. Compassion wells up from the ground in perfect crystal pools, in the places you’ll find if you make it all the way around.
Go all the way.
But don’t go halfway and stop.
Don’t stay too long in a place where existence “is” only matter and people “are” just complicated animals. As a destination I’d warn against it. If you’re really going there, please consider it an important stop along a larger journey of reason that will provide you with new perspective on all belief systems including your own.
Find the meaning in everyone’s meaning.