A Declaration of Meaning
Once upon a time we only knew what we were told:
Once all of nature and observable phenomena...the whole of the world around us was explained away through myth and legend.
Once there were only alienable rights. Subjects instead of citizens...servants, serfs, and slaves.
Once your only resources were what you could take or what you could hold.
Phenomenon, rights, resources...these were houses built on foundations of authority. Humanity caught in a seemingly endless cycle of rulers, beliefs, and systems designed to answer all of our questions.
But every child knows, “because I said so” is not a satisfying answer.
Aristotle had proclaimed 2500 years ago that objects of different weights fall at different rates. Understandable, logical, intuitive...wrong. In the 16th century someone finally devised a simple experiment to test if it was true. Galileo took a metal and a wooden ball to the top of the Tower of Pisa, dropped them together, and observed the outcome. When they landed at the same time the first notes of the human fugue rang out. Galileo had created a new way of organizing part of the world. A melody of process. We call it the scientific method: observe, hypothesize, experiment, test, repeat...observe, hypothesize, experiment, test, repeat. The Song of Galileo, a song of progress. It shook the walls of the House of Phenomenon to its foundation and unlocked the secret of how we unlock secrets.
This was the first. But process begets process.
There’s a signpost out front of the House of Rights that tells you all you need to know...and It says The King is Dead, Long live the King!
Or rather, here comes the new boss, same as the old boss.
But between 1776 and 1803 the rights of humanity were turned into a composition of collaboration. A song of rights that not only overthrew authority, but replaced it with something entirely new. The American founding fathers spent over 27 years crafting the opening refrain and it can best be heard in the question at the climax of its national anthem.
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
It is a clarion calling for citizens to engage in process. Its central message is that our ongoing negotiation over what rights we share is what keeps our flag aloft. It’s what keeps authoritarianism at bay. How do we change things? Protest, legislate, execute, judge, repeat.
Democracy became the second line of the Human Fugue.
Societies built on scientific and democratic processes now turned their attention to the House of Resources.
At the heart of this house is the question: how do we fulfill our needs? The authority based solution was to centralize those decisions - government controlled the supply and issued the demands. But under the influence of the first two songs of process, Adam Smith would begin composing the music of resource by introducing a simple jingle - identify, create, evaluate, exchange. A song called capitalism, a process in which everyone could participate.
So what has process wrought?
500 years ago we didn’t understand the fundamental forces. We do now.
200 years ago we couldn’t function without a king, now equality is enshrined in law.
And today the average person enjoys more material comforts than the richest person of a century ago.
The houses of authority have been replaced by complementary songs of the human fugue. When the world can be understood, when we have equal rights, and when our needs are met we now have the luxury of asking ourselves: what do we believe? What makes us happy?
These are questions that belong to the 4th house, the House of Meaning. As with the other houses, meaning has traditionally been defined by structures of authority. Religions and philosophies that dictated individual purpose to the masses and attempted to define subjective experience as objective reality. However, the application of process to the other houses has immeasurably improved the human experience. How could it not do the same for the House of Meaning?
The nature of meaning is personal. The nature of meaning is subjective. The nature of meaning is yours to define.
Through a process of meaning we can embark on a journey to discover ourselves.
Recognize the beliefs that drive you, evaluate if they work for you and consciously decide whether to embrace, discard, or amend them. It’s a rhythmic melody of curation that can be applied to every facet of existence, a process to be repeated all the days of our lives.
Recognize, evaluate, curate.
We declare that stewardship of meaning is the fourth part of the human fugue and we avow to bring process to this house.
I hold that my truths are only self evident...others may guide, many may influence, but my meaning is mine and mine alone.
This is our Declaration of Meaning.