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Eliciting a Universe of Meaning

Within a global information society of fragmenting knowledge and relationships

Eliciting a Universe of Meaning
Eliciting meaning of universal significance
Resolving vs. Developing
Eliciting meaningful identity: resolution vs. resolving
Solve et coagulo: neither changing nor resolving?
Pop concert of democracies?
From the language of state to a dynamic language
Dynamic transformation of static reporting of global processes
State sovereignty in a meaningful universe?
Symbolic connotations of sovereignty in a meaningful process
Illicit meaning and "illiciting meaning"?
Mnemonic clues to configuration and containment of meaningful identity
Sustaining a universe of meaning within a questioning process
Eliciting a universe of meaning from nothing through alchemical processes
Geometry of meaning: an alchemical Rosetta Stone?

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Meaning is widely associated with "states". This is evident in political efforts to create unions of states, exemplified by the United States, the League of Arab States, or the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as by the many proposals at the regional level (United States of Europe, United States of Africa, United States of Latin America, United States of Latin Africa. The United Nations is so considered at the global level, as with various proposals for world government. The "uniting" of states is framed as the most meaningfully desirable path forward.

This language is evident in reports such as those on the State of the Union (or the State of the Nation), the state of the environment, or as generated by the UN Specialized Agencies (or their national equivalents) with respect to their sectors of preoccupation: health, children, education, employment, food security, fisheries, safety, democracy, population, security (threat), environment, judiciary, media, cities, business. The approach may be extended to the State of the World or to the State of the Planet. Government policy may be a special preoccupation of a "department of state" or of a "state department". A "state" focus is used to frame issues of financial status, economic status, legal status, or civil status. The frame is used as much with respect to individuals as to communities: health status, educational status, social status, marital status, and the like.  A "state of comfort" is commonly a preoccupation.

The frame is intimately related to that of statutes and constitutions -- with the latter echoed at the individual level as in "healthy constitution". Curiously consciousness is also framed in terms of "states", as in the recognition of a variety of human mental states, states of consciousness, and even a state of madness. This extends to recognition of emotional states, including a "state of terror", a "state of fear", a "state of agony", and to their contrary: "state of happiness", "state of grace", and the "blessed state of the righteous" (according to Christianity). A "state of holy matrimony" may be recommended.

Given the increasingly disastrous "state of the world", and that foreseen for the future, it is appropriate to ask whether another language might enable meaning to be carried otherwise -- and potentially more imaginatively and fruitfully. There is clearly a fundamental problem with respect to the relationship between states of any kind -- one which obscures consideration of the dynamics which may be vital to the essence of meaning. This is only too evident in the case of Israel-Palestine, India-Pakistan, North Korea-South Korea, and the like -- as with the "two-state solutions" proposed with regard to the first.

Seemingly, it may be argued, the "cracks" between the "states" cannot be effectively addressed through the language of "state". For the individual this is exemplified by bipolar disorder. It is especially curious that reference should be made to a "state of war" or a "state of conflict", when both are especially characterized by a destructive dynamic (John Locke, Of the State of War, 1689; Todd Schenk, Assessing the State of Conflict Assessment, 2008). Surely a contradiction in terms?

To the extent that happiness is a recognized "state", of relevance is the much-cited preoccupation with "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" in the United States Declaration of Independence. How is a state to be meaningfully pursued?

Aside from the quest for "status", strangely this pursuit of a "state" is typically understood to involve the acquisition of a variation on "state" in the form of "real estate", notably property (land, buildings, and associated natural resources). These are the tangible components of a person's "estate", namely the net worth of a person at any point in time -- most particularly as determined for testamentary purposes. More strangely it is this "state" and its "worth" which is subject to the cautionary adage framed by the classic phrase "You Can't Take it With You" -- a challenge to the very meaning of any conventional sense of self-worth. Is a state, as such, inherently boring and unmeaningful?

Curiously the focus on states is intimately related to a preoccupation with economic growth and economic development -- as the pursuit of collective net worth -- even when challenged as needing to have a "human face". There is an expectation that "states" should grow and develop eternally in some way -- avoiding or eliminating problematic "states" -- and thereby embodying a quality of sustainability. Of relevance is use of "state of the art" to refer to the highest level of general development, as of a device, technique, or scientific field achieved at a particular time.

A further implication is that somehow, by associating the states together in some special ("magical") way, as yet to be discovered, a state of sustainable viability will be definitively established -- despite the challenges becoming ever more obvious (The Consensus Delusion: mysterious attractor undermining global civilization as currently imagined, 2011; Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? Towards engaging appropriately with time, 2011). The illusion that the component states will then "work" together, when so assembled, recalls the "clockwork" illusion of biologists relating to the creation of life from its well-known chemical components.

However data, information and knowledge are defined, they are clearly the primary modalities through which the various kinds of "state" are defined and bounded, whether from a legal, economic, scientific, political, social or religious perspective. It is therefore intriguing how the "meaning" assumed to be associated with any "state" is somehow disassociated in practice from those definitions. It may indeed be treated by some as indistinguishable from them -- when the definition of a word is treated as its "meaning", for example. It is however questionable whether such meaning satisfies in the face of experience of the dysfunctional "cracks" between nation states, disciplines, belief systems, and the like -- "cracks" typically engendering various forms of violence.

Religion aside, science and philosophy exemplify the failure of initiatives at "uniting" (Nicholas Rescher, The Strife of Systems: an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity, 1985). Without models from any of these three, it is not surprising that politics has been less than successful at eliciting meaning globally. There is clearly a danger of state-orientation in a dynamic world, as was a specific focus in an earlier consideration of related issues (From Statics to Dynamics in Sustainable Community: navigating through chaos by playing on polarities as attitude correctors, 1998).

Can meaning be elicited and experienced otherwise? The question is in sympathy with the preoccupations of the Global Sensemaking network with respect to "wicked problems", although it challenges the possible distinction between "making sense" (globally) and "eliciting meaning" (within the universe). To this end, and with regard to "sense", the argument draws attention to the implications of the many references to "financial alchemy" in the light of the now-recognized early role of "alchemy" in enabling the credit revolution independent of the supply of "gold".

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