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The Power and Paradox of Meaning

As I pondered the word meaning this morning the phrase “The Power and Paradox of Meaning” popped into my head as a summation of my thoughts.

Our lives each unfold in both expected and unexpected ways. Some things we desired, intended and forced into being while others were undesirable, unintended and nothing could stop them from materializing. These are simple facts about life that we have all observed and experienced in our mortal sojourn.

Whatever transpires, we each do something quite interesting, we assign a meaning to those things; we crave a meaning. When something happens we want to take responsibility or assign responsibility. We want to frame the events in some kind of paradigm so that it fits into our worldview. Ultimately, whatever happens, we want to feel that we have at least some kind of control and we can exercise control by assigning meaning.

Something good happens and we say that God blessed us, something bad happens and we say that God is punishing us. Both could be true in different cases but what is the meaning we decided upon and why? What influences the meaning we assign? An optimistĀ tends to prefer more positive meanings where a pessimist may look for the opposite. This is what I find paradoxical about meaning, it is difficult to nail down. How do we determine what something means? When the ability to assign a meaning escapes us, I think it can cause stress and incredible frustration. An example of this may be the unexpected loss of a loved one or a natural disaster. Why did that happen? Was there a reason for it and who is responsible?

I think that the difficulty in assigning meaning appears to revealĀ something intriguingĀ about the power of meaning. Could it be that the power to assign meaning is related to our agency and the purpose of life? Perhaps the meaning that we choose to give things is a reflection of our knowledge and intelligence. Or on another level, our ability to assign meaning can be a source of comfort in an otherwise devastating situation.

We can find meaning in our own reasoning, in the world around us, it in the scriptures, and meaning can be revealed to us by God. Still thinking about this. What do you think?