Semanturgy, a preliminary discussion

I am imagining an alternate way to approach meaning in the world.  Semantics and other similar studies deal with meaning in what seems to me a very passive way, simply observing the relationships between symbols, signs, and meanings.  I added a suffix that signifies “work” so that the word denotes an active usage of meaning.

It seems to me that human consciousness is evolving to greater awareness.  At some point we became aware of meaning, how to create it and interpret it: that a certain sound uttered signifies a certain message, that a certain marking on the cave wall indicates a certain event. We even developed special rites, gestures, and other indications that communicate meaning to ourselves and the outer world.

But we have become spectators, passive consumers of meaning. I humbly acknowledge a huge debt of inspiration derived from the philosophy of the Situationists, who dealt with the phenomena of spectator and spectacle in modern times.

 As we move from being spectators to being agents in the world, in our own lives, we must be guided by something.  Can we go through our daily lives and infuse every action with a good intention, can we make every word reflect our truth, can we keep in mind a purpose that fits into a bigger picture, whatever that might be for each of us as individuals?

Sounds like an overwhelming project, but what is the alternative?  Have our lives dictated to us by the media?  Flail thoughtlessly through our days?  Speak what people want to hear, or parrot what we’ve always heard?  Focus on the little details, like the labels on our clothes and the hood ornament on our SUVs, without considering how these details make up the story of our lives? 

I choose to work with meaning as though it were a medium like clay or words, to weave significance into every aspect of my life, to make sure my actions and words represent what I think and believe. I reserve the right to interpret the meaning of events, art, nature and the world itself in ways that might be different from the way others tell me I have to understand them. I want to open up the discussion to all thinking people, to share what seems true to each of us and learn something new.

I leave behind the role of unthinking spectator, consuming what the commercialized world tells me is valuable, and take on the agency of participant, producer of meaning, accepting the freedom and responsibility that comes with open-eyed awareness and intentional living.

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