Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meanings, Maps and Territories

Here are some interesting thoughts from Ken Wilber's, The Spectrum of Consciousness: "A map, plainly enough, is constructed by drawing a boundary. Now that is the essential nature and function of all these social maps-to establish meaning, pointers, and values by dichotomizing existence. A map, after all, is something which points to something else, and which has meaning only by virtue of that power to indicate and to point. Realize at once, however, that this dichotomization is not only between signfier and signified, but also between agent and action, cause and effect, before and after, good and evil, true and false, inside and outside, opposites and contraries and contrasts in general-and those in turn are inseperably bound up with our language, logic, taboos, and other social maps.

This implies, then, that meaning, symbols, and maps in general are all of a piece with the illusion that the world is broken. And so, through the internalization of these various social maps, we are eventually persuaded that the real world actually exists as a collection of disjointed fragments, some of which have meaning because they point to others! But the world seems to be this fractured affair only because those are now the terms which we perceive it. We approach it by slicing it to bits and then hastily conclude that this is the way it has existed all along. In a very real sense, our social conceptions have become our individual perceptions.

At this stage of the social game we have thoroughly overstepped the usefulness of the map by almost totally confusing it with the actual territory. Our maps are fictions, possessing as much or as little, reality as the dividing of the of the earth into lines of latitude and longitude or the splitting of the day into units of hours and minutes. Yet social fictions die hard. Useful as they are, untold confusion results when they are mistaken for facts. In 1752 the British government rearranged the standard calendar by changing September 2 to September 14, with the result that Westminster was stormed by people who were absolutely horrified that eleven days had just been taken off their lives! So also, every year in America, when certain localities go off daylight savings time, an unbelievable number of "little ole' ladies" rush City Hall, outraged in their belief that their begonias have actually lost an hour of sunlight.

These fictions are perhaps easy enough to see through, but many others, such as the seperation of life and death and the existence of an objective world "out there", are much more difficult to penetrate. The reason is that we have been thoroughly brainwashed, by well-intentioned but equally brainwashed parents and peers, into mistaking a description of the world as it is in its suchness, its voidness...Once we have accepted the social description of the world as reality itself, it is only with the very greatest of difficulty that we can perceive any other aspects of reality. Our eyes become glued to our maps without the realizing of what in fact has happened. Thus, as we have already indicated, all of these social maps bascially serve to mold an individuals awareness into conventional units meaningful to that society, and disastrously enough, all of those aspects of experience and reality which do not conform to this pervasive social mold are simply screened out of consciousness. That is to say, they are repressed-they are rendered unconscious-and this occurs not to such and such an individual but to all members of a particular society by virtue of their common subscription to that society's pictures of the world-its language, logic, ethics and law.

And so it comes about that, despite its numerous other functions, the Biosocial Band acts, in Fromm's words, as a major filter of reality, a prime repressor of existential or centaur awareness. As anthropologist Edward Hall explains it, "Selective screening of sensory data admits some things while filtering others, so that experience as it is perceived through one set of culturally patterned sensory screens is quite different from the experience perceived through another. Even more revealing, however, is psychoanalyst Laing's comment that "If our wishes, feelings, desires, hopes, fears, perception, imagination, memory, not correspond to the law, they are outlawed, and excommunicated."

Just thought I would throw this out there-if anyone has any thoughts at all about this please comment! I have felt for a long time that the brain is a filter that prevents us from seeing "reality" in its glorious beauty and wholeness. If it takes a bit for your comment to appear-not to worry -lately my computer seems to be dictating the "reality" of when I will be online or off! I am also trying to get caught up with everyone's blogs that I follow or link to. Now to ponder even more important questions -Why does the pop diva "Pink" scare me? Why does my left ear always have more wax than the right ear? Why does my cat like to fetch pens-and steal them also-she has a veritable collection of writing instruments stashed all over my condo-is she wanting to write a book also? Why have I developed a craving for jelly doughnuts that is out of control? So many questions -so little time-peace and be well to anyone stopping by!


Anadæ Quenyan Effro said...

Yeesh, Devin, where & on what beach is that meteor? Creepy, to realise that fellow beach-blanketors could've been picnicking or sunning there when it came down with a "Splunk! Fwoom!", or's it some volcanic spewmage instaed?

Be that as it may, blogger StrangEye recently hipped me to the work of Bryan Kemila, painter of cheese cake & tracker of the Luciferian deception, speaking of seeing passed the obvious:

The former link is Mr Kemila's channel on You Tube, the latter his attendant & heavily loquacious blog. Whadaya think?

Now'f he could just do with beef cake what he's been doing with cheese cake, I might go to one of his gallery openings. LOL!

Awed by all the input,
Anadæ Effro ( :-)}

PS ~ Hah, hah, hah! My wv for this is cattan, as in Chris Kattan, the gay comic formerly of Saturday Night Live1 Will synchros never cease?!

Middle Ditch said...

Why is my brain dead? Tired I suppose. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Always very much appreciated. Too tired at the mo to read your post. I can't digest properly.


Alex Robinson said...

Bless you Devin for that wonderful post.

You remind me of one way I've been trying to put my world back together - I noticed that when I go out for a walk I fracture the world into separate gardens - I see individual gardens instead of the continuous landmass that is the earth, it's not easy but now I try to see how the land on each side of the road is the same land, just as it is from one garden to the next - my neighbours garden & my own are the same land - the animals are wise enough not to be trapped by the concept of lawful boundaries - I'm trying to see as they do.

Loved your closing remarks - my current craving is lemon tart - I've long thought if you really enjoy something it must be better for you than the salad that sticks in your throat!

Enjoy :)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what it all means, but I agree that the brain is a filter of sorts ... we all see, feel, hear, think slightly differently, react differently to any given set of circumstances/sights/sounds, etc.

Devin said...

Anadae -so great to see you and that is a picture of the beach at Piha New Zealand! I am glad you brought up Kemila and thanks for the links -believe it or not I had seen his site some time ago although it has been quite awhile -hehe I agree about gallery openings and beefcake-best to you as always!

No worries Middle-I feel the same way -insomnia again and just "woke up" if thats what you want to call it at 900 pm -great to see you here and best as always!

Hi wise -glad you enjoyed this post-I remembered hearing so long ago that "the map is not the territory" and had been reading that book last night and thought what the heck -I agree with you and try to see and act when I can that all these phony boundaries are not there-best to you as always!!

Hi Aggie -You bring up a great thought to add to this -all of the "filters" themselves work differently-just on earth alone -expecially if you include the insect kingdom -I wonder how many different versions of reality there are-best to you as always!!

Sharon Day said...

Wonderful article! Maps are for the analytical brain. Most folks need boundaries and limitations and a way to conceptualize that isn't abstract. Have you ever seen a show on the universe and realized that even astronomers can't explain the vastness of it and our little minds can't conceive. I think you are either a map person or an adventurer. The former tucks it under his vest and feels secure that at any given moment he will know where he is, the latter wanders the fields and streams and always knows exactly where he is. Devin, you always know exactly where you are.

Devin said...

Hi autumnforest -thanks so much for nice comment!! definitely agree about map person or adventurer -i probably tend to entertain too many wild theories -but i would rather be this way than a materialist who thinks that all can be explained as if the universe were nothing but a collection of cogs and gears-i think it is infinite -and infintiely more than that-best to you as always!!

Julie Ferguson said...

Another fasinating post Devin. Sorry I haven't been by but I have been so busy and I'm going crazy, lol. Talk soon.....Julie
Hope you are feeling better.

Unknown said...

There is a toughness about Pink that's kind of sexy but it only works with a few women and should not be the norm. I hope the connection issue gets better.

This is why I hate the phrase perception is reality. No it is not. If anything it shows a reality in which the person saying that is too stupid to dig deeper and get the facts and see things properly with the facts as an guide. Perception people are weak minded in my opinion.

Devin said...

Julie thanks so much for stopping by!! do not worry at all about being busy -I have been so tired lately that I have been very lazy about my own blogs and stopping by other blogs also-if nothing else during the course of the day today i hope to stop by and say hi at other blogs -best to you as always!

Ricardo -yeah I agree about Pink :-) most importantly I couldn't agree more about your thoughts about perception-you are one hundred percent on target with that!! Now I am not having the connection probs-but have been extremely tired and unfocussed -lately I have just been in the mood to read good books lately-perhaps I will start doing book reviews as I have read a bunch of good ones in the past weeks:-)best as always and thanks for stopping by!!

X. Dell said...

(1) Psychologists use terms like "cognitive map" to denote an abstraction of place based on signifiers, which then add meaning o various geographical zones. These tend to act in accordance with all other cognitive functions.

For example I have a cognitive map of where everyone else's blogs are in relationship to my own. I perceive of My Favorite Monsters as being somewhat southeast of The X-Spot, while Dev's Questions occupies a space to the north northwest.

Because this is cyberspace, it make asolutely no sense that I would perceive this blog, say, here--especially since I'm cognitively aware that it's writer is far southwest of me physically. In this case, my cognitive map of cyberspace supercedes my cognitive map of the US, despite the fact that I've both flown, and driven to the state of Arizona.

(2) Basically, you're delving into a the philosophical underpinnings of phenomenology, the belief that we cannot understand the complexity of the empirical world (i.e., the world as it is), so we instead construct a reality (i.e., a world that we can understand). Here, the maps (cogintive or paper) project the difference between these two in spades. For example, I perceive of the state of Ohio as navy blue, and th state of Arizona as ochre. Why? Because my childhood puzzle of the states colored each of them accordingly. Of course, if you look on a global satellite image at these two places, they look nothing like that. They don't even have shapes, unless someone superimposes a map onto them.

(3) I don't know about the ear wax, but I can see how anyone who pierces her nipples on national television might scare someone.

Devin said...

Hahaha :-) great comment as always Xdell! I love how you can mix the serious with the unserious-it is so funny about this book the quote is from-I used to own it sunsequently traded it in and saw it at the library and thought what the heck -its amazing what we forget -even though it was less than ten years ago that I owned the book -I couldn't but remember a few sentences -just that I had liked it -your map blogging reminds me of this political compass test i took about 5 years ago on the web -according to this test i am a die hard communist!! of course I am so far to the left of most friends and family that i am sure to Americans i would seem that way -but prob not europeans-thanks for dropping by today and commenting Xdell-cant wait to see the new stuff!! best as always