the "Meaning" Formula
Now as I've mentioned in the previous chapter, although scientists normally ground their work by first defining their terms, I have chosen not to follow this norm. Why? Because I first want to offer some real world examples, some stories which will begin to give substance to what I'm about to say. Why do this? Because by doing this, I will be honoring the true sequence in which all "whole" learning occurs. The sequence? From visual experience to mental abstraction; from subjective substance to objective logic.
Is this true though? Does all genuinely conscious learning begin with visual experience, and only then move to verbal description and not the other way around? Yes, and understanding the Meaning Formula reveals what makes this true. This, in fact, is one of the main things the meaning formula proves. How? To see, we'll have to plug in some real life examples, starting with how you are currently experiencing this very formula. To do so, I ask that you now consider how much meaning this formula has to you? Does it, in fact, mean anything at all to you at this point?
Of course the answer is, at this point, it probably means very little to you. Why? Because I have told you so little about it. Experientially, that is. Concretely, of course, you have the bare logic staring you right in the face, a logic that claims that the "meaning of things" equals the "information we know about it" multiplied by the "time in which we know it has existed." Even so, while this logic does represent the very essence of this formula, this "information" will mean very little to you at this point. Why? Because the logic represented by these three variables is only one half of the meaning of this "information." And the other half?
The other half is the emotional meaning of this "information." Can this be true though? Can scientific principles need to include emotional components in order to be complete?
To some, this concept may prove startling to say the least. To others, simply absurd. For now though, please consider what it would mean if this were to be true. What would it mean?
For one thing, it would mean that the "meaning" in everything from the love of horses to the logic of geometry would include both components, both the logical and emotional experiences. More important, it would mean that the "meaning" of everything in our world would never simply be the sum of these two experiences.
Thus, like cakes which are never knowable from mere observations of their component parts, "meaning" is knowable only when we experience "the simultaneous nature of these two kinds of information multiplied by the length of time in which we have known this nature." In other words, we can know the true nature of anything only if and when we have spent significant time experiencing the simultaneous nature of both the logical and emotional components.
Admittedly, grasping even the barest significance of these ideas requires a whole lot of work and time. After all, what I've just proposed challenges the very foundations of science itself. For now, again, please set aside any reservations or questions you may have as to the meaning of what I've just said. Know I will return to these ideas many times in the discussions to follow. Including in what I'm about to do. Which is what exactly?
I'm going to try to now create for you some of the very experience I've just been referring to. How? By plugging your current experience of this formula into the formula itself. To do this, we'll need to create a value scale for these three variables. Let's represent the least "information," and the briefest amount of "time" which one can normally experience as a "one" on a scale from one to ten. Would it make sense then that this value, "one," would be a good estimated value for something you've just been told exists?
Substituting this "amount" of information and time for the variables "I" and "T", we see that the "meaning" of this formula is also "1." Which is to say it is the smallest amount of meaning anything in our world can have to us, at least as far as something we know may exist.
the "Meaning" of a New Job
Now let's add in some more personal experience, by plugging some more typical situations into this formula. For instance, let's say that you have just begun a new job. Let's say in fact that today is your first day, and that at this very moment, you are entering the company headquarters for the first time as an employee. Can you picture doing this and how you would feel?
If you can, most likely, even small details, such as where to go and who people are, would feel enormously meaningful.
So what measure might we assign these two variables now? For instance, how much information would you be taking in?
Well, for one thing, you would be taking in new "information" at an incredible rate. Things like "where doors lead to" and "who people are" would be coming at your mind a mile a minute. As well as the details of "what may be expected of you" and "to whom you will be responsible."
Now consider how you would perceive "time" passing in these few moments.
Of course, your sense of time would be that it was passing both very quickly and very slowly, a sure sign that what is happening is pretty important. This "meaningful" type of time experience is right in line with the old adage, "It is important to make a good first impression as first impressions last." Notice the word we use within this adage to describe "meaning?" "Important." And what is the essence of making a good first impression? Consciously, and graciously, taking in as much information as you can as quickly as you can as to who, what, where, when, how, and why you are there.
So in picturing this scene, what values could we insert into our formula now? Let's say now that the information variable is now a 7 and the time variable is now a 7 as well. Plugging these values into our formula, we get:
So is this event, walking into your new job for the first time, the most meaningful event of your life? Not really. But it certainly has a whole lot more meaning than the meaning of what you ate for dinner last night. Or the meaning of the socks you chose to wear today. Unless, of course, you believe that you will be judged mainly by your appearance. Some folks do feel this way. And this would very much increase the meaning of which socks you choose. Appearance aside though, let's now look at how the meaning of this event might change over time.
Let's say two years pass and you are still working at this job. More over, today, you are doing the same thing you did that first morning; you are walking in the front door of the building and walking to your office. How meaningful do you imagine this experience would be?
If you are like most folks, the small details which felt so important on that very first day of your employment would have long since blended into your mental woodwork. Other than to notice things like the details of what might have some immediately effect on you on that particular day.
For instance, if on this particular morning, as you walked in, your boss asked you to come into his office right away, you might suddenly begin to revisit all the small details of your recent employment history. What you did yesterday, and the day before, and so on. Of course, the context and speed at which you would make this review would give these details a lot of meaning.
the "Meaning" of an Old Job
Now let's consider a more ordinary day. How important would any of the small details be?
On an ordinary day, two years into your employment, these small details such as the arrangement of the office doors or the names of those you pass in the hall would have long ceased to feel important. More over, by this point you would more likely be concerned with just the things you have on your agenda for this day.
On an ordinary day then, how much "information" would you be taking in as you enter the building? Consciously? Not much really. And how much "time" would you be experiencing? Consciously? Not much time either. In truth then, unless, on your way in, you encountered some kind of unexpected event such as your boss asking you to come to his office, you would probably have, long since, reverted to a level of consciousness similar to what you felt before you even knew this job existed. Perhaps even less conscious.
So what values can we plug into the meaning formula now?
Let's say that on this average, ordinary day, that as you walk in, most of the small details by you by unnoticed. For instance, for the sake of being real, let's say that on this day, you barely notice having walked from the front door to your office, other than to briefly note that someone has moved the chair next to your door.
How much "information" consciousness would you be experiencing?
Probably, something like a "one."
How about your "time" consciousness value, having walked in barely noticing anything at all? What "time" consciousness value should we use?
Probably a one as well.
Now let's plug these two values into our formula and see what we get.
So how does our meaning variable look now?
Well, here's our formula with these values plugged in. Not surprisingly, the meaning of this experience has dropped to a level of meaning similar to the what we felt before we even worked here. In fact, at this point in time, the experience of walking into the job might feel even less meaningful than before we even worked there.
So what would this amount of meaning look like?
Now let's look at this same experience, only on this day, we enter the building on autopilot. In other words, we enter absent mindedly, noticing pretty much nothing as we walk to the office.
Values? Information? Let's make it below our normal bottom value, as we noticed pretty much nothing.
Let's say it is .5 unit!
Let's say we notice none at all.
The end result? Well, plugging these values into our formula, we get the following result.
So what do we see? We see that this event now has no conscious meaning! None at all. How about that!
More important, did you also notice that this value is exactly what we would expect it to be. It's as if this event never happened to us. And, in fact, it never did happen to us. Consciously, that is.
The "Meaning" of a First-Glance Moment
Now let's plug some other life situations into our formula. For instance, what would your consciousness be like if you had just begun a new romantic relationship?
To see, we'll have to actually imagine to a real life situation. You see, the Meaning Formula works only if it refers to an actual, visual reality, something we can in real life actually experience. Further, this holds true even though this is, in effect, only a "perceived" visual reality.
In truth then, this formula refers only to what we perceive our reality to be. And rather than this being a "scientifically bad thing," this idea, that this formula refers only to our perception of reality, is exactly what we do want to measure. Given that what we are trying to describe is not some literal reality but rather human consciousness.
The point is, the formula works only if we plug in real life situations. So let's start with this.
Let's say you are out with your friends to a local restaurant, and you are having a really good time. Remember, you have not met your new girlfriend yet. So what do really good times with friends look like?
Really good times with friends mostly look something like this.
Did you notice the value we are using for "good time?"
Know, we are using an "averaged" value here.
Now let's say you look across the room and in walks one of the prettiest girls you've ever seen. At least to your eyes, anyway. In fact, let's say you so are impressed with how she looks that it literally "hits you" that this woman is the prettiest gal you have ever seen. What would this experience look like if we plugged it into the Meaning Formula?
Remember, we are using averaged values here.
So can you picture how the "information" variable in this situation might zoom to an eight, while at the same time, the " time" variable might zoom all the way up to a ten?
Why a "ten?" Because were you to look back on this moment many years later, what you would find is, in all likelihood, that although years of time had passed, that the meaning of this information would have changed little, if at all. In fact, this is part of what makes us define "first loves" as being so valuable. They come at us in an almost unguarded state. In other words, they "hit us" harder. This makes them last almost indefinitely. If not, close to forever. At least in our conscious perception of them.
The "Meaning" of a First-Glance Moment After a Divorce
Now let's plug in yet another real life situation. Let's now say that this first exciting moment led to your marrying this person. Let's also say that at this point, many years have gone by. In these years, the excitement in your marriage, like the excitement in many marriages, has faded. Moreover, at this point, it's become so low in value that the two of you have decided to get divorced.
Now let's consider it has been two years since the divorce. How would the value of that first glance moment would have changed? In other words, how would years of time passing and a marriage and divorce have effected the values for that first-glance moment?
Being honest about these kinds of moments is hard for most people. Resentments and angers often cloud the truth. However, if you could be perfectly honest about how you see this first-glance moment, and if you could actually picture this moment consciously, what you would find is, the value of it would have changed very little, if at all. Even after all this time and trouble. Why? Because falling in love is a timeless moment, whether with a person, a baby, a teacher, or an idea. Or even, for material things.
That this holds true even for material things surprises many people. But it does. Thus, even if we "fall in love" with something material, such as with the first fishing rod your father gave you or the first lipstick your mother allowed you to use, the conscious value of this material event will remain intact, even years later.
Now notice what we just did with the Meaning Formula. We just used it to see as false an old adage. What? That all material value fades. Moreover, if we were to interpolate this out in general, we would see that adages which are biased towards the spiritual values in life, and away from material things, are untrue. Why? Because in truth, the actual, conscious meaning of these material things changes very little to us over time. If, in fact, they change at all.
Thus, unlike what most of us have been taught; that the value of material things always fades, this value fades only for those things which we never experienced timelessly. Which is to say, this value fades for everything except for those things we fall in love with.
Of course, this same idea; what fades and what doesn't, holds true for the people we fall in love with too.
Thus, the conscious value of the people we never do fall in love with will always fade over time.
On the other hand, the value of the people we do fall in love with will never fade. Even if we believe it does. Why? Because if you were you to visually access that first moment, the moment in which you actually fell in love, even if this moment was with your now x-spouse (and even if you have come to hate this person), what you would find is that the beauty you first saw in her in that first moment would be as fresh today as the day you first saw it. Why? Because once something is a ten to us, it is a ten forever. Even our x-spouses. Even if we do not want to feel this.
What Makes Us Believe This "Meaning" Fades?
So what makes us believe that this "meaning" fades then? In other words, if I'm right and the beauty in our x-spouses never really fades, then why can't most of us access this beauty?
The answer lies in how the information variable changes over time. What I mean is, over time, we naturally add information to this first wonderful moment. As we do, this additional information dilutes the perfection of that very first exciting moment. Why? Because little if any of it is ever as exciting as that first moment.
And what does this additional information do to our ability to consciously witness what we feel about this person?
Of course, it makes it next to impossible to witness the value of that initial moment. That moment becomes close to invisible to us, as in, "same information, different day," so to speak.
So what would it look like if we were to plug in typical values for our experience of an x-spouse?
Well, if we were constantly arguing as to how to raise the children, it might look something like this.
And if we had reached the point wherein we no longer had contact and if it had been years, what would the meaning of this experience look like? It might look like this.
Of course, if we had just been served with a threatening legal paper which said we owed tens of thousands in back alimony, we might experience the following "meaning."
Notice the information value in this last event? I have made it a "ten?" Why a "ten." Because "tens" are a very common informational value for events wherein we experience an affectively negative, life-changing event.
Now consider what I've just said.
Common values for the information in affectively negative, life-changing events are "tens," whereas the time values in these events are almost never this high.
In affectively positive, life-changing events though, while the information variable is almost never a ten, the time variable frequently is.
Revealing, to say the least.
Are you beginning to see how valuable the Meaning Formula could be, the "meaning" of the Meaning Formula?
The "Meaning" of the Meaning Formula
Now let's now look at how your perception of the meaning of this very formula has changed in these last few moments. When we began, it was probably something like the value we previously spoke about, the value I've listed below.
And as I began to add experiential value to your logical sense of this formula, perhaps it began to change in value into something like this?
Interesting. Did you notice that statistically, this change represents a 400% increase. Even so, this value, a four, is not all that great. But then what happened? We plugged some real life experiences into this formula, things like that you walked into your office on the first day of a new job. And it grew old. And that you fell in love. And got divorced.
So how did these events play out in the formula? How, in fact, did plugging these events in alter your sense of what this formula meant?
Well, assuming you actually pictured these experiences, in all likelihood, the meaning of the formula itself would probably have risen to something like the value you see below.
Are you beginning to see how well this formula mirrors the measure of our conscious experiences? Not in mere cold logical measures but rather, in living, conscious values, such as in how the value of material things, and the value of falling in love moments, changes over time?
So What Have I Really Defined?
At this point, you might be asking, so what have I really defined? My answer? Nothing comprehensive, really.
So what is the point of what I've just told you, the meaning of these few "meaning stories?"
Just this. As I've already stated, no meta-word, such as a word like "consciousness," can ever be defined by anything less than by other meta-words, such as words like, "time," or, "meaning." To scientific minds however, this way of defining one's variables invalidates the whole formula, in that, to many folks, defining one's terms with other undefined terms is circular logic. But does this invalidate our formula?
To see, we'll need to take a deeper look at a concept I referred to earlier. What concept? The idea that there is actually a way to test for literal truth. Something, I call, the Emergence Truth Test. Remember? The idea that anything true will be "infinitely variable but never change."
This idea is what we will look at next. The idea that you can literally test things for truth.