What’s Your Meaning of This?


Deyoung, describes Mystic-activist as a person of faith-inspired, generative action within shifting sociopolitical spheres of human interaction, particularly concerning the oppression of a community or individual. These actors pursue a “direct experience of ultimate reality” or “the experience of some form of union with God” to elevate the collective we (2007 pp7). The ineffable qualities of impermanent reality are confusing to the selfish, ego-driven moments we all share. Ineffectually struggling to solidify security in the present moment, the ego becomes hostile and afraid. Perhaps of illusions of scarcity and ill-perceived lack.


            With so many cultural paradigms to ascribe to, how do we pick which to internalize? What seems obvious is that we pick and choose what we believe in according to our environment, both social and physical, e.g. we are the product of such. Symbols we construct and the meanings we apply to them form our external reality which reflects our inward mental-world, our ethos and worldview.

Concerning cultural conflict, what most people fall short of recognizing is that culture is not to be taken at face value because there are multiple layers of meaning encrypted within the symbols we construct, and are impermanent by nature. Humanity as a whole seems to suffer from or enjoy what some may interpret as a sort of historical amnesia, socially reconstructing and reinventing the wheel (perhaps this is the meaning). We forget that we are not the originators of now, the product of then as well as the idea that history is not a linear event. Myriad happenings unfold simultaneously that reshape the meanings of symbols all over the globe (this is a significant tenant of political economy [Stewart 1767], no one person, place, or thing is unaffected by another at any given time, everything is connected. i.e. Einstein’s theory of relativity [1905, 1916]), so to internalize any one ideology, belief, or definition of being seems to me an error only to be exposed by time, experience, and meditation.


This is my current understanding of humanity and the construction of culture, among other social tools. A symbol and it’s meanings are configured and reconfigured throughout history as people encounter one another resulting in various cultural paradigms making contact and amalgamating. Each individual is and is not a pro-generator of culture…

Not, in the sense that the individual did not construct the original symbol and it’s implicit meanings. Is, in the sense that neither history, culture, nor reality is static, or fixed phenomena.

Symbols and meanings are constantly being reconfigured and renegotiated any moment  encounters or exchanges occur between a person, place, or thing. Ultimately, culture is an imagination game we play with one another and ourselves in a sort of virtual reality, where the pieces, rules, and game-board are in constant flux. Though we may not be fully aware of this phenomenon, our participation and performance may be enhanced or diminished in accordance to our socioeconomic positioning within the implied hierarchies of a dynamic cultural matrix. I do not deny that emotion is a hell of a motivator, on the contrary I believe it is a force that moves us. Yet, extreme emotional polarization and  attachment often leads to dangerous and violent behavior as a result of grasping at permanence.

Of course I have arrived at, “Well if that’s all true, then what’s the point, what’s it all mean then?”

I entertain the possible conclusion that WE, as collective individuals, construct our meanings. The individual and their unique, single, subjective experiences that colors and  constructs our shared social web of experience is drawn upon by others as a pool of referential significance and guidance, the collective unconscious (Jung 1936). At the end of the day… no one really knows what’s going on and that to me is sublime. It is awe-inspiring, beautiful, and dreadfully freighting, purely a matter of perspective.

As a Cultural Anthropologist, I cognitively operate in this sort of analytical perspective exercise most of the time. As a human-being I am attempting to be present at every given moment to appreciate and accept life as a sacredly mundane and divinely ordinary experience. This Yin-Yang, dichotomous balancing act is my dominant experience and I feel freedom intellectually, and emotionally as well as a crippling melancholia, but I still keep moving. I am human after all… I think.


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