Value & Meaning building

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.

__Viktor Emil Frankl

What is  “Meaning” ?
To me:  A personal  or subjective  experience in definition. for something to  be “Meaningful”  it must hold Value and– in my relationship with this something or someone, concept, goal, object, human or life-fom, I must “esteem” it to be more value in comparison to other somethings in a context, landscape or gestalt.


respect for or a high opinion of someone


 Admiration for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities.


the importance or worth of something for someone
how useful or important something is


  • meaningful… description of information, that is:
    • that is formed out of background of discord
    • that is relative: relative  to a topic, study, paradigm, “game” , time-space location, happening, or world- view.
    • that is defined  in language, symbols or gesture,
    • that is prioritized in importance – intellectually and emotionally.
  • meaninglessness:  information that is not meaningful and therefore  remains, or is relegated to the background.

—from  Agnostic Conditons : Pennsylvania Echoes

I have reworked a task/todo   sheet
Visible here:  Value Building Exercise Example Page .
to be a simple    exercise in thinking about Value  and then about Meaning.
the instructions are at the bottom of the page linked above.

Free as is now warranting  for Download:

valuing-building-exercise-pdf  PDF

valuing-building-exercise-odt -Editable ODT

Click on the links or picture Above for downloads.

Have a meaningful Day!




Compassion is the understanding of others, with the cultivated awareness of suffering.    Perhaps  more  accurately,    Compassion is empathy with the awareness of suffering.

The western concept of “empathy“, popular in the writings of twentieth century humanists, philosophers and psychologist has its own active verb tense. “to empathize” or “empathizing“. compassion does not have a verb tense in English… perhaps ” to sympathize“… but I will stick with Compassion, here.

To empathize is to imagine another’s experience,  compare that experience with his/hers and to be affected.   One empathizes with another person(s), organism(s) and their circumstance. It should be noted, that from a stand point of certain schools of thought,as in Zen Buddhism, Humanistic Psychology and existential- phenomenology, an organism is always considered with his circumstances. One is always interacting, affecting and being affected by his environment . This is “experience”, the participation of an organism in its world. “Phenomenology” is big ugly word for the study of experience(s), from subjective lenses.    “Empathizing”, is being affected by and imagining another(s) experience(s).

Another overlapping concept is “perspective-taking“. “Perspective taking” is imagining another’s experience and world-view.   Perspective-taking is objective and rational in method; and deliberate in avoiding any emotional affect and judgments.    To take another’s point-of-view and study while holding back any personal bias and presumption would be perspective taking. (see also Husserl’s bracketing or epoche`)
Is it at all possible to remove all bias?    Some psychologists argue that perspective taking is a primitive form of empathizing .

Alfie Cohen, Author of “Brighter Side of Human Nature“…… poses another  phenomenological approach to empathy that he calls “feeling-into“. To “feel-into” another’s circumstance, personal happenings, gestalt or being-in-this-world. Feeling-into is an full cognitive investigation of another’s subjective experience.

Back to Compassion

I do believe that there are people who can empathize or feel-into another’s situation without compassion.
A study of the psychopathology of some dangerous criminals might support my claim.   For example: there are a few who feel powerful or aroused when they imagine themselves as the victims of their violent attacks. in this case there is empathy and perspective taking, for pathological pleasure, but no compassion.

To act with compassion is to act and empathize, while recognizing and considering suffering. To act with compassion is to act and be affected by the suffering of others.

Understanding suffering is at the core of any study, religion, or way-of-being that is called Buddhism.  Thus compassion is a much talked about subject-matter . Understanding the nature of suffering is fundamental to Buddhist practice.
Note below a translation of the four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Four Nobel Truths of Buddhism .

  • Suffering Exists in Life
  • The Source of Suffering is attachment
  • The Emancipation of Suffering is attainable
  • The Path or the “Eightfold Path” (wisdom, conduct, development)

In Christianity, (at least from my non-religious outsider’s stand appointment), A great deal of importance is placed on the suffering of Jesus at the end of his days. In interpretations,   God seeks to empathize with man in the Life and times of Jesus. Followers seek to understand God in part by empathizing with the life and Crucifixion of Jesus. The very important Christian theme of Redemption is tied to suffering and compassion just as it is the teachings of Jesus, in the “Sermon on the Mount“.

Compassion is care for others. What can, at times, be overshadowed is the care for ones own well-being.   IMHO: It is important to act in the same compassionate manner for his or herself, as he does for others.   Just as important as anything written here:    The care and wellbeing of one’s self and others includes happiness, pleasure, curiosity and a spectrum of experiences…. not just suffering.

Compassion maybe a cornerstone of ethics along with self- esteem and reciprocity. If we truly love and esteem ourselves (that is, our being) ;    If we treat each other in the manner we wish to be treated, then we may presume that no one likes pain and suffering.   We’d care for ourselves and others, and act accordingly— rich in understanding perspectives beyond our own.
It would be unethical to deliberatively harm another (or one’s own being) that we have compassion and care for.

Mood definition… a disorderly description, Reposted

Mood definition … A Disorderly Discription by a Bipolar Disorder Manager..”
was origionally posted on 5-10-2009

You wake up one morning.

  • You feel happy,loving, humorous  optimistic.
  • Your confidence and self worth are high.
  • You are motivated.
  • Your body feels healthy and energetic
  • You are  thinking is clear, focused,  positive.
  • You are not concerned witht bad thoughts.
  • Your impulses are strong and up mind/body feel crisp.
  • You  look outside your window and everything appears crisp , bright and colorful.

You are  in a “good mood”or an up mood.

You don’t need all these attributes to be in a “good” or “up” mood, when you wake up. You may be happy and thinking positive, but not feeling energetic…. You might feel very energetic a little confident and optimistic  and not particularly impulsive.
However, these attributes are loosely tied together… or appear commonly together in feelings … and we describe them as “being in a good mood”.
An Up mood.

You wake up one morning,

  • You feel sad, lonely, or pessimistic.
  • Your confidence and self worth low.
  • Your body feels, detached, achy, and slow. Your  thinking is disinterested and unfocused .
  • Your  thoughts are  self defeating..
  • You feel detached.
  • You look outside you window  and everything looks hazy and dull.

You are feeling down or in a down mood.

Just the same as an up mood, not every trait is necessary to “feeling down” or “feeling low”. You may have mildly self defeating thoughts, your body may feel achy and slow, you may feel extremely detached and disinterested…. and may not feel sad at all.
but your mood  is still described as down.

When  your over- all mood is very up… its referred  manicy and when it is really down your mood is depressed.

The word “mood“, much the same as the word “mind” is an abstract description.. It is an organization (or integration) of traits that are otherwise difficult describe. There exists no exact physical or concrete  thing called “mood”.

Even more difficult to describe is a mood disorder diagnosis. a diagnosis, such as “Bipolar disorder , “is made by matching a person’s intrusive traits with criteria in the DSM- IV . A mood disorder is not something you can see with an x-ray such as a spine injury. However, “mood disorder“is description is as real as description as  “mind”… and it is a diagnosis to be taken as serious as any medical diagnosis that is easier to see wit an X-ray or MRI.

For someone  diagnosed with a mood disorder…
These mood traits and the  behaviors linked to them are pushed to further extremes, until they become extremely intrusive in their life.

  • An extreme up mood or “manic mood” for example may lead an individual to have super- high  self esteem in denial of any consequence and lead to reckless behavior.
  • An extreme down mood or “depressed mood”  may have lost all self worth , have intense self defeating thoughts leading them to suicidal behavior.

These is usually a periodic conditions.. but it requires a life time of management.

The exact cause of Bipolar disorder and other mood disorders is not entirely understood yet. Western medicine and scientific evidence strongly supports that  they are biological, in origin.

From a Holistic point of view… we may say that the body, mind, mood, behavior, interaction with people and environment, all are components that act in an integrated fashion as whole of us.
When I, consumer who  manages Bipolar disorder , has these mood traits that are very intrusive at a given time, the mood distortions can throw all  integrated parts of me  off. In periods when this happen  I am described as being “symptomatic“… the symptoms being the intrusions. Each  consumer who manages a mood disorder has a unique  set of symptoms.

Sound complicated? no real concrete definitions?
Defining “Mood, “mood disorder and Bipolar disorder… just a simple component to be integrated with the whole of “Living with Bipolar Disorder”.

There  is  wisdom to be  gained:. Our perception of reality and our perceived personality  are all determined by all the components of us in an integrated fashion.
Just as my choice words to describe “mood”.

Thanks for re-reading my post and thanks if you are reading it for the first time.
please take a look at the list of posts in “Maslows Toolbox” on the left hand column:
a collection of posts and tags that I hope are helpful for mental health – wellness tool building.



Phenomenology is the  study of experiences: generally the experiences of a subjects (an organism, a group, or a single conciousness) interaction with “other” (eg. the environment, field, “world”, other happenings or other people  in contact with the subject) and from the subject’s  point of view.
This includes all integral structures and components:

  • mood, excitement, aggression, apprehension and expectations in circumstances.
  • Bias, “world view”, outlooks and introjection
  • intentionality (or towardeness) and mindfulness.
  • sensing, near and far (touch and taste are near, sight and hearing far)
  • sensing time  and observing change
  • imagining, feeling, problem solving, abstracting,
  • desiring, empathizing,expressing,
  •  affecting and being affected
  • experiential learning -learning by experience and activity
  • the limitations of experiencing
  • The communication of experiencing, i.e language, language modes
  • context and meanings
  • patterns (similarities of different experiences and applications)

Some benefits  of phenomenological investigation is:

  • One may improve his understanding of his ways of cognating and acting.
  • find deeper meaning in events by holistically experiencing them rather than reading about them.
  • understand and find meaning  in other peoples shared experiences, paradigms, by cultivating perspective-taking skills.
  • improve problem solving with experiential learning, and patterning.
  • feeling “tuned in” to the world.
  • abstracting, imagining and being affected by other’s experiences (development of empathy and language).

phenomenal flower

Phenomenology is not just a subjective and intersubjective discourse in philosophy.  It is important to  Science (where objectivity is preferred)  as well.  For example:  the activity, including observations, of the tester must be considered in any scientific test. A scientist is always trying to remove error and accidental tampering in his/her measurements and  remaining as objective as possible.
Now consider the science of Quantum mechanics.
The tester or observer is so grand compared to tiny particles in field,  that even his idle observing can effect his measurement of particles.  This means that a quantum physicist must account for his own “consciousness” or cognations in measuring and observing particles,  including his expectations, attitudes and limitations that could effect his data! At this extreme level of scientific observation, the scientist’s experience of  measuring objects and events in a field is a component of the field.

Phenomenology is a much discussed topic in the quantum mechanics and physics, as well as psychology and both Eastern and Western Philosophies.  It’s an important topic within any Empiricism .  If I had a complaint about phenomenology its that’s an awfully long word and I can never remember how to spell it. :) …. and just try to  fit the phrase “existential-phenomenology” (the phenomenology that focus on whole action and not just “consciousness“) into the 140 character limit of a twitter post.  Phenomenology is one more ugly word that is very useful.

Gestalt Definition

An  organization or integration of components that are so interdependent , the whole is otherwise not easily described or easily summated.

  •  Most often use to describe spatial and /or temporal “phenomena”  or observable happenings..
  •  but can be used to describe  constructs and relationships.
  •   The organization or integration could graphically described as  a figure that is forming from a backround, where it remains in “contact” the ground.  That is: ” what is the gestalt” is always” in contact with “not the gestalt, globally”.

An example of a gestalt being not otherwise easy to describe or not easy summate might be   hand writing on paper and the hand eye coordination required.

  • One could study the functions of the nervous system and arm and fingers as it writes on paper.
  • One could study the visual process of the nervous system and eyes watching as one writes.

However, one could not just add the data of the  two studies  and expect to understand the interplay of hand an eye that is  involved with writing.  Instead one might treat and study hand eye coordination in writing as an integrated whole or Gestalt, because the components mention formerly are rather interdependent.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

is the creed of gestalt psychology ( a scientific and holistic study of perception that commonly uses gestalts) and a rather striking statement.  Mathematicians familiar with calculus and  analytic geometry might take issue with the literal value of this statement.  but consider the following examples:


In this visual example  of “closure” or “reification”:  an image of a triangle will  appear to a viewer.  the visual data of a triangle(in the right image above) is only constructed with the viewers  biology (his brain, eyes,etc.) and with all the components of the image viewed as a whole.  simply adding the visual components will not produce the visual data that is the triangle.
It would seem that  the arrangement of the smaller components must be involved in producing the triangle in any equation, but this would be hard to predict without at least considering the image as an integrated whole… or gestalt.

See if you can read the following:

you slouhd be albe to read  tihs sneetnce esliay
buscease yuor mind orangiezs waht you raed itno wohles.

(to check your “translation” mouse-over the highlighted above.)

Practical Investigations with  Gestalts

A gestalt   could be an organism,  family, community,  a social movement  a widget in a visual environment on your computer, a market place in business,  a symbiotic relationship inside an ecosystem and so on.
Since some things are difficult to study internally due interdependence  of its components and properties, thinking with gestalts may be helpful.  For example one may study cultures, subcultures and social movements. by comparing and contrasting “what is not” the culture, subculture, and social movement in question.  Graphically, one defines  a gestalt  by its borders, where it interacts with “other”.
The same  comparison is also done in Gestalt therapy  ( * not the same as gestalt psychology) where a client  focus on where and how “he”, or “she”  contacts and interacts his/her  world, environments and circumstances to define him or herself.

Gestalt is a graphical interpretation, that can include approximation. It is origionally a German word to describe a form, shape,or figure. I think that it is an ugly word when spoken yet beautiful in its usefulness.


In the ancient philosophy of Taoism,


Te flower.jpg
Te (Teh) is Virtue:  or  the personal truth and strength that one cultivates. It describes the way one cultivates himself and harmonizes with Tao.

Tao is defined as constancy and way all flows. I like to think of the word “Tao” as a default word to describe the totality of all the principles that govern physics, except that Tao, by definition… is mystical and lies beyond man’s  scope of knowledge.
Taoism is holistic. So Te is more than just intellectualizing ethics or a list of values. Te is acting (or idling) with character, being with ethics, being with authenticity, and being in manners that harmonize with Tao. Te applies to the person or organism as it lives in connection and integration with Nature or “the world”. Te is a quality.

If there is really a difference between wisdom, integrity and Te, I really don’t know.  Maybe it is cultivated and refined by the Authentic Experience that  Søren Kierkegaard    spoke of centuries after Lao Tzu, in other parts of the world.
perhaps its a universal concept and concern..

Reification Definition

News magazines… political advertisements…. bombastic web pages… shock jocks. It seems we are bombarded with a lot rhetoric these .  Rhetoric can be coercive.    To help sort facts from rhetoric its important to understand what refification is. Reificating is treating  concepts, hypothetical constructs and postulates as if they real, concrete or even organic, when writing, speaking, broadcasting or communicating.

Reification  is the act treating  an idea as if it were real.

* I prefer  to use  the word “reificating”  since it is a description of an action – and different from “reification” (the act of reificating) in noun form, is a concept or construct… so goes the nature of the English natures use of nouns. I think its appropriate to point out in here.
Some Examples of Reification:

“Evolution chooses the strong to survive.”
“Good and Evil forces control the fate of man.”
“Information wants to be free.”
“The Free market will correct its self.”

  • Evolution is a concept, it cannot choose.
  • “Good’, “Evil” are descriptions, they have no concrete actions.
  • Information and the free Market are constructs they neither want, cognate or act.

These statements may be poetic ,symbolic, or personifying to illustrate a subject matter or point — but they are not factual in them selves.
The act of treating these ideas as if they were people or beings is  reification.  Being able to spot it can help clarify the massive information from disinformation that we receive these days.  When every particular thread of information we receive  already comes colored by subjective bias  of the source’s own world-view (or weltanschauung – I’ll post on this definition in the future),   its important to have  as many clarification tools as we can. Understanding our  reificating  will help us clarify information and decide what is  meaningful and how meaningful.

Reification and Closure….Perceptual Study.

In gestalt psychology, a branch of study based upon human perception, refication or “closure” is the act of experiencing more spatial information in that presented.
Although  the two definitions   of refication given  are separate,   I see a connection in   how a person  mistakes ideas as real  by  experiencing more information than he concretely or empirically has about an idea.  Do you see a triangle in the image below?

reification triangle image

There is no triangle in the image above, but one will perceive a three sided polygon – filling in the missing sides.  Upon  quick glance: the idea  a triangle in the image is made erroneously real – an “optical illusion” until further inspection.

Conclusion  and  not jumping to conclusions:

In the Modern era, in the West, many people believe: “God is talking to me“. In the United States educated people debate if  “Corporations  are people“.
Some would say that these nouns  difficult to show empirically. The first statement may refer to  belief system and the latter organizations that act as a single entity. Although  I think it is important  clarify both statements, but debunking these ideas is not the intention here.

In fact, I would say that deconstructing any of the rhetorical statements (example “information wants to be free“) is not about annihilating them. Rhetoric and poetry are important.   Its that  in  interpreting language with the awareness of   reificating,  one will be better suited to  decide what is meaningful information and what is discord and distraction. Understanding reification is practical.