Monday, 4 June 2007

How to Generate Meaning

We Kodgers, having won our freedom;
Moved away from the hectic;
Created space for ourselves
Traveled open roads to empty places;
Dared to face empty moments;
Courted solitude.

We are drawn to emptiness,
Like a child to the canyon’s edge.
Thrilled by the void!

Mysteriously, out of "nothingness"
Springs raw material for our meaning:
New energy, perspectives, yearnings, visions.
Meditators know this.
The challenge to the Kodger is to transform
These vagaries into tangible meaning.
This is an art and a skill.

What is Meaning?

Meaning is a feeling of aliveness, purposefulness and connection that exist between the beginning and end of a game.

What is a game?

A "game" is a situation where "what is not" is declared to be more important than "what is"---and acted upon! Today we played the Moab game. We declared that being in Moab, UT was more important to us than being in Monticello, UT. So we moved through lovely countryside to Moab. Game over! Note that Moab may not really be more important than Monticello, but we pretend that it is in order to get movement.

Why play "games?"

To get ourselves in "motion." Note that motion does not mean physical motion alone but includes such things as reading or thinking. It is intentional progression from a beginning to an end that is key.

Why is motion so important?

Because only movement can generate meaning.
Because only movement can create contribution.
(and all you ever wanted to do was contribute)
Movement through experience is like a boat moving through water; it makes waves and so do we. Waves are our contribution to the world.

It is benevolent irony that playing games to amuse ourselves is the best way to contribute to the world. Thoreau, in living his life selfishly for himself inspired millions to follow their dreams.

Kodgers, perhaps uniquely, understand that movement is more important than location–for the same reason that acquiring is more fun than possessing; getting rich than being rich. Life is a journey not destination---movement not stasis.


Imagine your head is a light bulb. Your brain is the filament. Experience is electricity and when it flows through you or you through it, you light up. Meaning is Glow! Sometimes we glow brightly and sometimes dimly. The games we create range from tiny to lifelong, and often overlap. Scratching an itch is a tiny game that generates a flicker of meaning. To be brilliantly lit is what we all want. We can know that we are "lit up," alive and on purpose, when what we are doing is so interesting that we lose track of time. Psychologists call this experience “Flow.”

A happy individual is a lit up individual. We could say that the winners in life are not those with the most toys but those with the most joys–the brightest glow.


Meaning is artificially generated by playing games. All of us can generate meaning whatever our circumstance. In the movie One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, the main character is a meaning generator even in an insane asylum.


The space we have won for ourselves is also our challenge: How to meaningfully fill it. We do this by letting the space “speak to us” of our real “fascinations”; out of which we create “games” to get us moving through experience; which lights us up with meaning; radiating our contribution “out there.”

A Question to Ponder:

Whose games are you playing? Your own or someone else's?

This essay is copyrighted by Randy Vining 2007

Recommended reading:

The Psychology of Optimal Experience
by Czikszentmihalyi

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