As I’ve mentioned under the reading section, I’m currently reading Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger.
Well, doesn’t everyone question the meaning of life? I’m 100% sure we can all relate to what I’ve learned today.
So I’ve gotten to the chapter where Edinger talks about the concepts of individuation. Well, let me just summarize his previous chapters to the fact that his theories and understanding of the self is based on the Jungian theories, out of all the psychology of the self theories out there.
The Jungian concepts of the self have also proven very useful. It’s because of C. G. Jung that there are popular personality tests today, like the MBTI structure and the Four Temperaments of human personalities. I’ve taken those, you can check them out here.
Meaning of meaning
So. Edinger used the word “meaningful” into two different interpretations:
- The objective, abstract meaning
- The subjective, living meaning.
He went on saying that it’s us being incapable of telling the difference between these two “meanings” that we question the ultimate reality of our life’s purpose. Consequently, this leads to the knowledge of our personal identity. Who are we? Who am “I”? Who is this subjective knower who is living his/her life towards the Me, the objective known?
Then he said: “Modern man’s most urgent need is to discover the reality and value of the inner subjective world of the psyche, to discover the symbolic life.”
Man is in need of a symbolic life [...] Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul – the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill – this awful, grinding, banal life in which they are “nothing but.” – C. J. Jung, The Symbolic Life
Well, the basis of Jungian theory is this concept of the psyche going through life within two reservoirs: The collective unconscious and the personal unconscious, whereby our collection of experiences, memories, and emotions shape us into individuals.
My meaning of meaning
I learned that the beauty of life is that we have all these multitude states of consciousness, whereby we play so many roles in our daily lives. We’re not just a student, we’re never just a teacher, we’re not just a parent, and we’re not just any thing. We’re always playing our parts as human beings, being “nothing but” human beings who constantly experiences life and interpret our episodic memories into meaningful moments, if, indeed, we translate them into meaningful moments.
The beauty of having senses of sight, smell, touch (pressure, pain, hot, and cold), taste (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami), kinesthetics, and at balance… All these basic human senses help us to perceive the world in any way we interpret them, and everyday, we use them all to see signs and symbols in our own, meaningful ways.
Signs and symbols are things that help us guide our own ways. We human beings need these things everyday to guide ourselves in discovering the meaning of our lives. As Paulo Coelho prophecies in his famous mystical, metaphorical fiction, The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The protagonist, Santiago, is constantly guided by omens. Don’t we all relate to these stopping signs and warning symbols every single day?
Edinger went on defining a sign as a token of meaning that stands for a known entity. A symbol is an image or representation which points to something essentially unknown, a mystery.
“A sign communicates abstract, objective meaning whereas a symbol conveys living, subjective meaning. A symbol has a subjective dynamism which exerts a powerful attraction and fascination on the individual,” explains Edinger. Knowing that I am literate in so many languages, I can say that I see the same things in so many different signs. However, these by-products of my private thoughts are dead, unless realized by some kind of subjective dynamism, which is fully alive. Signs are dead, whereas symbols are “spontaneous products of the archetypal psyche. One cannot manufacture a symbol, one can only discover it. Symbols are carriers of psychic energy.”
In other words, using languages, which are just system of signs, points only to my own interpretations of something that which already existed, merely a translation, unless I project them into another idea by symbolizing a part of my linguistic life into a meaningful mystery, that which hasn’t been discovered, thus proving my individualistic existence. Does that make sense?
Case study: Selca
For example, I can use my understanding of the word selca and translate that into something that will help me learn a desired feeling, particularly a feeling that increases our self-esteem. By that definition, selca is a desired behavior that leads me to realize my progress in my current weight-loss journey. Self-camera is a cheap and simple way to let us know how much we really love ourselves. It is like a form of suggestion to ourselves (autosuggestion), in that we can pose in any way we want to act so that we look good in front of the material object called the digital camera. In a way, it suggests confidence in ourselves, which is the most popular objective in any weight-loss journey, and metaphorically, in life.
Breaking it down further, if we can imagine the camera as a particular person’s eyes, then the objective of the weight-loss journey would be for that special someone. Also known as we can have confidence in ourselves and also in that person that which we are posing to in front of that camera. We confide in ourselves, we also confide in the other person at the end of the line. In the end, your picture becomes a symbol through which that positive, smiling, psychical energy carries a feeling of confidence is passed on to that special someone. Which is why we all get that tingling feeling just by seeing the images of our favorite celebrities.
From that, my friend, just by practicing selca, we’ve really created an augmented reality, sort of a suggestive happiness in which we capture a brief, yet meaningful moment. It has became meaningful because of that special someone, or perhaps for other reasons we have for smiling in front of that self-holding camera. Perhaps it’s for the lesser and lesser reasons to smile as we grow up. Perhaps it’s because the whole world is frowning so much in these harsh times, or maybe it’s just simply because there’s no reason to NOT smile, because a single smile can change anyone’s day, much as a penny’s worth can add up to a dollar.
Depending on how we perceive that smile – Is it positive? Or is it negative? Well, obviously if you’re human, we perceive a smile as something positive. If someone smiles at you, isn’t it a reflex to smile back at them?
Control creates meaning: Getting from “I” to “Me”
I skimmed through Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi once a couple of weeks ago. Right now, my notes says that his definition of a meaningful experience looks like this: When we have a purpose that justifies our strivings, and when experience is ordered, whereby we:
- Posit some supernatural force, and
- Have a providential plan.
He also defined his title, flow, as an experience in which we feel a complete engagement in a creative or playful activity. That sounds pretty much like a hobby to me. Or, in the case of selca, that of a playful novelty. How can we make them meaningful, then?
Csikzentmihalyi also mentioned that taking personal control of consciousness means having control of the quality of our experience.
Thus, through the many states of consciousness we human beings can all experience, we have the ability to choose how we can interpret nothing of value into something meaningful. Like a picture of ourselves, taking our own picture. Ha.
How can we make that picture into a symbol? What does the symbol represent? What does “I” represent?
Rene Descartes suggests that “I” represent:
- a thing that thinks, and
- a proof that God exists.
Those two, readily, gives the solutions to the respective points Csikzentmihalyi made when we create a meaningful experience. That supernatural force comes from God, and that our providential plan is a personal willingness to think our ways into that meaningful experience.
From reading Reality, Knowledge, and Value: A Basic Introduction to Philosophy by Jerome A. Schaffer, I also learned the perception theories of Descartes. He said:
It is certain that this “I” is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body, and can exist without it. [...] But to live is to let “I”, my self, co-exist with the body. Otherwise, the body dies, so dies the mind.
So, I think that this all just means having faith in God and trusting our own plans while staying positive with our perceptions of the external world and in our relations to others will ultimately make a series of meaningful experiences that leads to a positive, symbolic life, and that always having our chins up, sensing our bodies and let “I” control every actions we take, in other words, mindfully let our selves live in these bodies we entitle our selves, we automatically set our selves up to leading a life full of positive meanings to “Me” and the positive relationship between “I” and God.
Apparently my mental breakdown of literary definitions in psychology is a time well spent to create a reason to smile and experience my next few seconds, moments, and hours of my life in any way I want it to be. I believe in this freedom, this free will, that which is still a mystery to me.
But through the subjective knowledge in psychology, the positive knowledge and truth, tried and true facts, I believe that I am at this moment have created a positive experience in this post, which then becomes a symbolic life created upon your personal self, readers.
I hope it means something to your individual self, however you’ve interpreted my words; what I know of is that it’s definitely a positive thing. Ha!