Where's the meaning? What's Life All About, Anyway?
Where's the meaning? What's Life All About, Anyway?
Those Are Simple Questions. By Skye Hirst, Ph.D. ©
Obviously these are not simple questions. These are questions as old as time. So with a lot of chutzpah I would like to wade in on these questions in an attempt to find a way to understand in a different light how we can find meaning.
Join with me in examining this topic.
In this first part we’re going to talk about processes that are little known by which we would normally come to find meaning. Unfortunately, the current worldview of our dominant culture and sciences has made it difficult to understand and use these processes. In this Part I we are going to talk about these processes and in Part II we will have the tools to give an answer about how we find meaning.
These are newly discovered process laws of value. There are three kinds of values we all use (whether we know it or not). Every living being has the inherent capacity to know and use these process value laws, but it is only in the past 50 years that these laws have been discovered. So that you don’t know about them should not surprise you. Robert Hartman, a philosopher (1910-1973) was the first to bring these laws to our attention.
On TV there’s been a commercial for a credit card, which went something like this.
If you want to buy a pair of sneakers for your kid’s basketball game, there’s (name of card). If you want to pay for the airplane trip to the game, there’s (name of card). If you want to spend time with your kid watching him play the game, it’s priceless.
As you will see this commercial nicely illustrates the laws of value to be discussed.
Let’s begin by learning about the three kinds of value processes; three ways we can look at anything. For our purposes here, we will discuss 3 ways I can value you, a human being.
Categories or Kinds of Values & Valuing
Intrinsic/is the highest kind of value because it is valuing the whole of something in all its possibilities
If I value you intrinsically, I’m valuing the whole of you, warts and all. It’s the wholeness of you that makes you you. No words can adequately describe you in this dimension of values because it includes such a wide and rich mix of all possibility. It’s outside space/time. It has “no thingness,” It is perceived by felt senses within us, perceived as a wholeness, all at once; all the characteristics, relations and relationships, all as an integrated whole. Some might say this is function of the “right brain.” But in fact, it requires both sides of the brain to sense it. All this is “priceless” as the commercial says. There is no finite quantifiable value you can assign to intrinsic value. It’s your absolute uniqueness, one of a kind. You are infinite possibility. That’s why it is such supreme act against life to kill a living human being. Infinite of infinite possibilities of potential are being killed. It’s in this dimension that we can experience the rich variety of aspects within our world, feel their importance and relationship one to the other. This is the dimension of unconditional loving.
Extrinsic/ is lower in value because it is valuing only part of the whole
This type of value focuses on some particular aspect or quality within the whole of you such as brown eyes, or your ability to paint, or be a good secretary. There are skills and qualities that can be isolated about you that can be measured, compared, evaluated as being good or bad based on the valuer’s experience of what he/she perceive as “good.” Using this dimension of valuing, we hear phrases like “On a scale of 1-10, how do you rate the meal, or this girl?” This kind of meaning is necessary in life if we are to live together and communicate about something we all share and want to have influence over. I value you extrinsically when I say I like your hair or the way to do cross word puzzles. It’s part of the whole I’m valuing. This is the dimension of gourmet cooking, of fine wine tasting. There are ingredients that produce a particular result and if those ingredients are not present, then the evaluation is less than good, say a 2 on a scale of 1-10. We measure, categorize, compare and contrast in this dimension. There is lots of naming, and labeling in this dimension in an attempt to qualify what we like or feel is “good.” The extrinsic dimension is necessary as a practical means of getting jobs done. We need certain skills to do a job. I may value you intrinsically, but know you don’t have certain skills I need to get a job done. I won’t hire you, unless I like you so much it doesn’t matter that you don’t have the skills and I’ll choose to get the job done in some other way if that is how I choose to order my valuing.
Systemic/Rule, Law, Ideal /It is the lowest because there is only one way to be right
I value you systemically when you fit an ideal or not that I have made up about what is right and wrong. You wear the right clothes, the wrong hair-do. You run with the wrong crowd. You are black and I don’t associate with black people. This way of valuing focuses on the most narrow part of the whole because it is the rule, law or ideal that has only one way to be right. There are no gray areas. It is black and white. Driving laws are a good example of this value dimension. You either are going 65 miles an hour or you are not.
Now this dimension is useful and essential to manage the world of all possibility. We need rules and laws that work to help everyone be able to function with the higher levels of valuing. The laws of justice that seem to work best are ones that have come out of an attempt to support the higher two value dimensions to enable the widest freedom for all to act intrinsically true their own identity and then to express it in some extrinsic way for practical fulfillment and satisfaction. Driving on the right hand side of the road is a law that works to support the higher two value groups. It is easy to enforce because it works for everyone to be free to do what we each wish in all our possibilities, yet organizes a way for this to happen.
Money is a systemic law, a made up agreement about how we are going to relate to one another in some finite form around our exchange of energy. As in the commercial, things you can buy with money are finite. Things you can’t buy like time with your child are infinite. What you choose to value the most, will determine the quality of your life.
The systemic value level is where the dominant culture of today gets into trouble. This is the lowest on the value hierarchy because it is the most narrow of all possibilities. This type of value insists that there is only one way to be right. When systemic values are the most important, the other higher dimensions cannot be experienced and then the whole way of life becomes impoverished. Meaning of this kind is so lacking in variety that is fails to bring satisfaction to a fuller extent.
It is natural that we each develop rules about life and how it works, or not, for us. We form rules out of our best judgement for how to act in the world we live. Unfortunately, too often we then try to pass along these rules through our judgement of others and how they should act. The HOGS (have tos, oughtas, gottas, and shoulds) come out of this dimension of value.
When we cling tightly to these rules as being the only way something can be or should be done, we set up the conditions for much cruelty and suffering. If you look at reality only through this dimension, it leads to war, violence, hatred, greed, Nazism and Fascism, and all forms of fundamentalism. When we leave out all the other dimensions of valuing a person, and just focus on one right way to be, we make people into things. That’s how people can become cruel and hateful to one another to the point of killing, torturing, as is done in any war or with any “ism.” The ism becomes more important than the person. War, violence and hatred come about when this dimension is the highest value held by a nation, government, business, or individuals. There is no maneuverability with only one right way or one correct action. Explosion is the only way out if that is what both sides of an issue cling to.
When the systemic is overvalued and put at the top of the list in what is important over and over again, you will experience much stress, pushing for something that cannot be forced into reality. I find many of my clients with high blood pressure and high blood sugar who are living down in the systemic dimension every minute of their lives. The only way is up in the higher value dimensions for health.
We can learn not to make these choices. But much understanding of how these value dimensions work in us is now required. To live life fully means being able to see and make judgements with all three kinds of values. Harmonizing and balancing them is the challenge of being conscious.
In Part II we’ll discuss how we individually and collectively find meaning and how these value laws can help us to make sense of what is going on in our world today. I’ll share with you ways my clients have been using these tools to find correct action for themselves to bring about greater value and meaning to their lives and subsequently greater health and sense of well being. We’ll also bring insight to bear on the world of foreign affairs and what we can do to help our leaders use the higher values to resolve many of the conflicts around the world.
In the meantime, tune into your own ways of valuing. Use this chart to learn how you and those in your world seem to look at reality. We have a value inventory that can be used to learn how these value laws are perceived, used and operate in you or your organization.
Let me know what you discover. Thanks for hanging in here with me. Many thanks to Inner Tapestry for giving us the opportunity to introduce these new findings. Spring’s coming. I love it when Life begins busting out all over. Now that’s an intrinsic value statement!
An answer…Accessing the Inspiration Space Inside Each of Us, Our Highest Core Essence.
How do we find meaning? What gives us that lift that helps us sense there is a reason for all that occurs?
If you’re like me, I go through days when life can get me down, make me wonder what’s it all about? I have parents who are reaching into their 80s and illness has become a more frequent occurrence. What do they have to look forward to? The world keeps turning around with an ever-changing cast of characters on the stage of leadership in countries, multi-national companies with the bottom line, the drive for power, control and winning seemingly the reason for everything. Getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home exhausted, fixing dinner and going to bed to start over the next day, day after day can get old rather fast. Now I grant you, most of these thoughts don’t occur to me all at once, but on occasion they all seem to add up in my mind like the song says, “Is that all there is?
At such times, I recognize that the “world is too much with me” and it’s time for a time out, a renewal, a long view. It’s time for a dose of nature, a romp with children, a sit under a tree with nothing to do, a pause for a re-set moment.
To take a long view of life seems like a luxury because it requires time away from stimulation and demands of the usual set. However, without such times, our body/minds will slow us down some way so we get it. It’s a requirement of being alive, healthy and thriving. The need becomes particularly apparent in the spring when the “sap” rises, so to speak, in us after a quieting down during the winter months (if that’s what you’ve done). You’re renewed and ready to put out extra energy required for the new growth.
Just this week I got an a-ha just after such a moment of rest and sitting back. It took me about two weeks of slowing down, taking my weekends to rest, to quiet myself. And then, something amazing occurred. Just when I was feeling overwhelmed with activities I had chosen, doing things I thought in every way were meaningful, I felt something was missing. I was doing well with most of my activities, yet I felt dissatisfaction, down deep. Where was the meaning in it all? What itch in me was not getting scratched? No mistake, I’ve been writing about meaning for the past two columns, I guess.
I heard myself ask, what is the essence of me, and all I do? What gives me the greatest sense of peace, of a feeling of coherence? It isn’t any one thing I do, or the expression of one talent or speciality I have. It’s what I sense is my uniqueness, my particular view of reality from inside my unified core of identity and experience. It’s what I’ve felt over and over again in many combinations during my lifetime.
The answer came loudly. I find meaning when I’m in the creation of Inspiration Space, sometimes outside space and time, sometimes very much in concrete reality with art and aesthetics, with help from nature. That’s my highest essence, the umbrella, if you will, of what gives me a sense of fulfillment and deep satisfaction. My essence has infinite expressable forms. There are many ways for me to find this fulfillment, but when I’m connecting to this essence for a long time, I soon feel its absence and a longing sets in.
I remember as a child running around in the pastures on our farm in Missouri. I’d seek and find creek banks that were aesthetically pleasing to create stages for little performance pageants making me feel alive and excited all at once.
I would create little playhouses out of any old abandoned hut, making it beautiful, peaceful and special for me, and my friends. To this day, I love decorating my house, my various rooms using whatever is available finding unusual arrangements that bring me peace and restfulness as I enter the space and look around. My heart and mind feel a childish joy from looking around my spaces I’ve created in my home. They inspire me, quiet me and enable all that I do for myself, and others. It’s feels like an oasis from the world at large.
I find the work I do with my clients is very much the same process. It’s accessing an inspiration space in each person to find meaning in who she is intrinsically. Remember intrinsic value from my last column on values? Intrinsic value is the highest value because it is valuing the whole of something in all its possibilities. When I sense my client has connected to that center within herself, I feel the moment of inspiration that comes from all that person is, has been and can be. It’s a moment when I am fulfilled by her imminent fulfillment. I am in a moment of my essence. I am at home with all that I am. In this moment, I sense the value and meaning of all that I’ve learned, all that has happened to me, all that I’ve struggled with, the trials, the confusion, the moments of loss and grief. In this moment when I join in this sacred time with a client, I feel my own inspiration space, my wholeness and connection with all. My life and the life of my client suddenly all adds up. I am lifted up and out of space/time. I’m in inspiration space. And yet I’m very much in the present moment. It’s all possibility.
Now what came to me this week, was I am to expand that Inspiration Space idea to include an actual series of events that can bring inspiration as a theme through art exhibits, gatherings, inquiry circles, retreats and continuums, lecture/discussions, movies, and surprises that emerge day to day right here in where I live, right now.
I’ve dreamed often of building a beautiful space for such purposes, but I didn’t realize it was here right now. The time for finding meaning, for uniting hearts and minds to translate our world into heaven is now. That’s intrinsic value. And that’s what came from taking a little time out to listen to my own inner felt sense to access the intrinsic dimension. Whewww! My highest essence has been growing in me from birth, maybe even before that. Now I feel a kind of quiet as I allow it to unfold with awareness. Everything I’m doing seems to have new meaning and order for me. I feel a sense of coherence and all is right with the world.
Meaning comes for each of us often as we release our focus on particulars and allow time for dreaming and asking what is that essence of me? That feeling is outside space and time. It’s not a thing, or place or even an accomplishment. It’s a sense of wholeness being formed through you exactly as only you can do, given all of your experiences and identity.
One of my clients had thought her life’s purpose was to work with helping people get ready for surgery as a health educator. She took all the courses and certifications yet couldn’t ever get at the last step she needed to really begin the process. I watched her become irritable, even cross at times and her energy just got more and more exhausted. Then I asked her how she felt about working with sick people. The words, “I don’t like it.” jumped out of her mouth almost before I finished the question. Her face lit up and a ton of weight lifted off her. Realizing she didn’t have to do it opened her to what really gives here joy, working with children and animals, music and play. Well this lady is a new person finding meaning in her wholeness, her intrinsic essence, not in some idea of what she thought she should do.
Having just spent the past two days at the Camden Conference on Foreign Affairs, I’ve been renewed and filled with hope for the world. What I’ve witnessed there has been new, young thought leaders coming from immersion in world affairs events who are seeing the need for a translation of our world to higher values and new ideas for how to accomplish that. That’s where it starts, to know it’s possible. This Conference has given a long view helping me to see the processes of life, worldwide, weaving a spiral ever upward towards greater and greater meaning. In that I mean, more and more harmonization is occurring and corrections are happening in the way the Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Systemic value hierarchy keeps checks and balances happening even when we don’t know it. Grace and Deliverance is the nature of Living processes as we allow the inspiration to find new avenues and relationships for action of health and healing. More on Foreign Affairs next time.
Meanwhile, let me remind you that YOU are amazing. You are very special and uniquely organized. Self-knowing is the foundation of all knowledge and from there everywhere is possible. As we each access our highest essence and remove the obstacles to that expression and fulfillment, we also bring solutions to the Creator’s creation. We are the world’s solutions. So ask yourself. “What is my core or highest essence?” What makes you feel all your wholeness? Watch out, you just might be inspired. Then we’ll talk about how the next level of Extrinsic and Systemic valuing help that essence to unfold. Until next time, here comes the joys of springtime.