The Meaning of Making Meaning and Time

By Dr. Arlette Poland

Humans make meaning. That is what we do. We decide if we like a color, a person, an object, a country – or not. We make meaning by our words and deeds. Meaning comes from our thoughts. Feelings follow thoughts and thoughts make meaning. The meaning of our making meaning is that we then become responsible for labels and meanings. We do something with and about those labels. So, really the question is what are we doing with our meanings?

Whitehead described the activity of becoming as a concrescence. That is meant to indicate the act or activity of becoming concrete or actual. That which is actual can be perceived by the basic five senses of the human body and then given meaning by our labels. That is the meaning Whitehead gave to each moment and its organization: the passage of time. Time is concrete when and as we experience it. (The fact that we are never in the absolute now is not a topic for this blog, however.) Otherwise, it is as if time carries, caresses or holds the event that is becoming. Time is how we measure the activity of becoming. Each becoming is an event and not something concrete until it is actual. Once actual, the event is now part of the actual world or existence being offered to the next event that is becoming. And so goes time.

We humans talk of killing time. We talk of making time. We talk of not enough time. We give meaning to time and maybe all it is – is a measuring device that we need in order to make meaning? What if time is, as Einstein and others have suggested, so tied up with space and our level of existence that nothing has meaning without a component of time in it? And what if each experience and expression of time had meaning and we recognized that inherent meaning? What would it look like? What would it be called?

We make meaning. That is what we do. What if we made time – just as it is without special add-ons – sacred? What if time was considered a sacred aspect of the event of becoming? Or what if we gave the meaning of sacredness to time just once a week – and what if we called it Shabbat? What then?

We make meaning. We are responsible for the meanings we make. What if we made time sacred only once a week? What would our responsibility be then?


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