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Sources of Meaning: Land

Sun, May 6, 2012


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I was recently recruited to work at a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, which meant that I would have to relocate from St. Louis, where I had lived for almost eight years.  The easy way to relocate would have been to board a plane and let the movers take care of the rest, but I decided to drive, mapping a 2300 mile route through seven states, which involved stopping off to visit friends, crossing the rockies in Colorado, and staying at Zion National Park in Utah a few days before crossing the Mohave desert to reach the Bay Area.  The decision to drive followed naturally from the articles I have written on this blog, for a drive would allow me to add meaning to my transition from an independent entrepreneur in St. Louis to an employee in the Bay Area.

And as I drove, the land asserted itself, over and over again.  Apart from all the many moments of awe, followed by many hours of meditation, I could sense the land talking to me on some form of subconscious level, changing the way I think.  At one moment when I crossed the border between Kansas and Colorado, I felt a sense of freedom like I had not experienced before.

This experience is not unique to me as evidenced by the millions of travelers who trek across the world every year to be awed and inspired by the wonders of the natural world.  A select few who are able to feel deeply and who are able to sit quietly at the outer reaches of their consciousness and listen to the whisperings of the subconscious, are then able to express their inspiration in poetry, in paintings, in movies, and in stories.

But let’s clarify a little.  I am not claiming that meaning is contained in the land and that somehow it flows into the human psyche, but that somehow exposure to land transforms the human psyche in such a way as to enable the creation of meaning, and that for most individuals such meaning is created on a subconscious level, being mostly experienced as a profound mixture of feelings, which are then minimally labelled as awe, or elation, or joy, for example.  So the source of meaning is still the human mind, but a group of such sources only come to the surface and are only released when exposed to experience of the land.

As postulated earlier, poetry, paintings, stories, and other media is the bringing into consciousness of the meaning that starts flowing in the subconscious, manifested by a few individuals who have developed a means to listen and understand the whisperings of the subconscious.  Such expressions are themselves built around and influenced by works from other individuals that came before them, and together combine to form towers of meaning.  But it is important to note two things: first that towers of meaning are not contained on paper or in words, but only in the mind, and that such expressions are like keys that act on the mind to either construct towers of meaning, which in turn direct individuals to unlock other parts of their mind, or to form higher more complex structures in their mind–i.e. achieving higher consciousness.  And second it’s important to note that the majority of such expression has been carried and is even now carried orally, in person to person communication laden with tacit content that is hard to write down.

So then when you combine an original source of meaning, such as land (or more accurately the experience of land), with what an individual has inherited from her or his culture, and also what an individual has her or himself added to this collection, will then lead to new development that either leads to expanded consciousness or mediation of physical existence.

In summary land, or more accurately land as experienced by a person, is a primary source of meaning, acting to unlock as yet unreached portions of the mind.  And this experience, this experience of land, is the first step along a path of building consciousness.  Viewed in this light, it is then clear why Native American cultures declare a place to be sacred, for sacred would mean that such or such a place has special significance  to the formation of towers of meaning in the minds of individuals, and it is clear why such large numbers of people are motivate each year to explore the natural wonders of the world.  These are not just frivolous entertainment seeking, but activities that are essential, or even the ultimate motivations of human existence.  Yet land is only one such primary source and in future articles I will explore other primary sources of meaning.

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3 Responses to “Sources of Meaning: Land”

  1. Stephanie Fielding Says:

    How interesting!
    I was just listening to a radio show where once again those places sacred to Native Americans are discounted and deemed impossible to be built by Native Americans. It is so frustrating when people just must make something theirs when there is no good proof. The fellow was saying that many of the stone structures that are found around New England were built by an Irishman centuries before Columbus or even Eric the Red ever stepped foot on North America. No one seems to think that the structures could have or would have been built by the Indians…despite the fact that in other parts of the continent it is understood and widely accepted that these structures are built by the original people of the land.

    To say that these places are likely places where towers of meaning are anchored is wonderfully perceptive. A new way of understanding the higher intellectual and/or spiritual reaches of man’s capacity.


  2. Cynthia Phillips Says:



  3. Tom Viator Says:

    Nicely done. A somewhat similar concept here:

    Offbeat Graduation Speech Gets Standing Ovation



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