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The World We Create...

by Dan Garro 11 months ago in advice
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Making Meaning

“Once I am free, I am not to be counted among things, and I must then be uninterruptedly free.”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

How do you define yourself? What self-concepts do you apply?

Are you a student? A father or mother? A sibling?

Are you good or bad? Are you a victim? Are you active or passive? Are you depressed, anxious? Are you positive or negative?

How do you define the world, how do you interpret the environment and societal circumstances you find yourself in?

Is the world against you? Do circumstances favor or hinder your happiness? Do you feel pressure to present yourself a certain way, to conform?

Interpreting Ourselves and the World

Humans are creative beings. Whether we like it or not, whether it is conscious or unconscious, we are engaged in creative “world-making.” We each create the world we experience.

We each create the world we experience.

Taken by itself, sensory data lacks much of the important meaning that makes it into something—something we care about, something we understand.

We actively interpret sensory data, we make it into something understandable, into experience—In short, we make it meaningful.

It is through a process of interpretation that we read meaning into the world. In doing so, we create the world, we make what we perceive matter, we infuse it with meaning.

Through this creative-interpretative process we define ourselves and the world. Our attitudes, beliefs, values, and tacit worldviews are reflected in the world because they provide the basic material with which we interpret the world.

It’s not surprising, then, when an individual who identifies strongly as a Democrat disagrees with an individual who identifies strongly as a Republican. Their beliefs, tacit worldviews, and values cause them to interpret the world in very different ways.

The world the Democrat sees is therefore a very different world from the one the Republican sees.

Meaning Making

The meaning we read into the world, the beliefs and values we ascribe to ourselves, define who we are.

If we are negative, pessimistic, if we think the world is against us, that negativity, that pessimism, will be reinforced by our interpretation. We will find justifications for our negative attitude everywhere.

It is not uncommon, for instance, for individuals to develop a negative outlook and experience heightened stress after spending more time than usual consuming news or browsing social media. The negativity that sells advertising also influences us and causes us to interpret it into the world.

When you tell yourself you cannot do something, you make it impossible. Convincing yourself you cannot do something effectively creates a world in which you are unable to do it.

How we think, the meanings we apply, are important because they are the foundation of our perspective, our interpretation. It is through them that we make sense of ourselves and the world, and this determines whether we view ourselves as agents and recognize the control we possess.

We have the power to change our thinking, to take control of our thoughts and form a perspective that works for us. We can create a world, an attitude, that promotes positivity and personal responsibility.

If you have ever experienced a negative feedback loop, you know how negativity and pessimism get affirmed and reaffirmed by your own interpretation of the world.

It is possible to develop the opposite, to foster positivity and optimism in your thinking and your life.

This process begins when we start taking control, when we recognize that we can form our own perspective and create the world we see.

When we take control, take ownership, we exercise our freedom.

“Once I am free, I am not to be counted among things, and I must then be uninterruptedly free.”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Thanks for reading.

Please check out my author's page and these related essays: Philosophy Teaches Us; A Life Project; and Creating Opportunities.

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About the author

Dan Garro

Philosopher/Educator/Writer/Podcast Host & Producer

I'm a philosophy professor, avid reader, I love writing, and I co-host/produce The Existential Stoic Podcast.

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