It’s not easy to make sense of everything that goes on in the world around us. From hi-tech gadgets to climate change, it sometimes seems like a jumble of random noise continually barraging us. This blog looks underneath the daily noise to identify the patterns of meaning that drive our modern world – and invites a way to construct our own meaning to make sense of it all.
Each of us sees the world according to patterns of meaning that are ultimately derived from our worldview – a set of assumptions about how things work: how our society functions, its relationship with the natural world, what’s valuable and what’s possible. Our worldview often remains unquestioned and unstated but is deeply felt and underlies many of the choices we make in our lives. We form our worldview implicitly as we grow up, from our family, friends and culture, and once it’s set, we’re barely aware of it unless we’re presented with a different worldview for comparison.
Our worldview is based on root metaphors that we use to frame other aspects of meaning, without even realizing we’re doing so. These core metaphors, which arise from our embodied existence, structure how we conceptualize our world. High is better than low; light is better than dark; our life is a journey along a path.
What causes us to create these root metaphors in the first place? Unlike other mammals, we humans possess an insatiable appetite to find meaning in the world around us. In the words of a little doggerel:
Fish gotta swim; bird gotta fly.
Man gotta sit and say why? why? why?
Why do we ask why? Humans have a unique instinct that differentiates us from other animals: a patterning instinct. Because of it, we can do things other animals don’t do – like talking, reading, driving a car, planning for retirement, or making music. We learn these things thanks to our highly developed prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is the most connected part of the brain and detects patterns in the inputs it receives: What’s recurrent? What’s important? What correlates with something else?
Out of these patterns, as infants, we begin to make sense of our surroundings: recognizing family members, picking up on speech formations, and gradually learning to become members of our community. As we grow older, we continue to rely on our PFC to make meaning of all the different events we experience and to construct models for how to live our lives. We create narratives about our past and future, we construct an identity for ourselves, we categorize things, putting more value on some and less on others.
This blog will explore the hidden patterns underlying what goes on in our world. When you read it, I invite you to observe your own patterns of meaning you use to make sense of things. Ultimately, it’s only by changing our global civilization’s pattern of meaning that we’ll make it through the crises facing our world – and we all have a part to play.