Saturday, January 01, 2011

On the meaning of words

by Rosana Agudo, Manager Director, TTi Tecnología para la Transformación Interior

In and of themselves, words have a life of their own. Just as does each person, situation, and context, each word also has three dimensions: the meaning it has for me; the use I make of this meaning and its interpretation within a context; and, what is accepted universally, that is, what the dictionary says it means. In my mind, and in my mind-set, where lies the sediment of all my knowledge, I believe that everybody else understands the same as I do, and if they don’t, it is
because they know less, or because they know more. Or perhaps they understand it differently. In that case, if they understand it differently, it is because they have different mental processes, or because their experience with the use of the word has given them a different comprehension.

Another possibility occurs to me: perhaps the person has transcended the meaning and sees all the meanings, or sees many meanings simultaneously and can situate them in different contexts, proposing different “truths” and “realities”. This person, then, has much more autonomy and freedom and many more possibilities to choose from. This person can also comprehend a greater number of different points of view allowing him or her to live and to see with more intensity, and to be conscious of the limitations of certain contexts as well as the potential unfolding of others. But, as with everything else, there is at least one disadvantage for those who have the capacity to “see more” – the loneliness of the one who sees more, until many others have seen as well. This loneliness, at the same time, pushes the one who sees more to share and to transmit his or her vision with as many people as possible with the purpose of being able to unite with others, to come together, to share knowledge, wisdom, love, business, prosperity…

The need for the “critical mass” that would permit a new form, a new paradigm to become visible to as many people as possible puts the human machinery to work, through “a body of desire”, (that I spoke of in my last writing). Until we achieve the critical mass, only the few who see work within the new context. For the others who don’t see yet, the new paradigm is only experienced as an urge. As we approach the critical mass, more people have and feel this urge, and some also begin to see and this accelerates exponentially the establishment of a new paradigm, or simply of a new idea or a new fashion.

With this in mind we can test “what has already happened but hasn’t yet become visible to all” in the language. The words that correspond to the new paradigm appear, but without new meaning, they may even manifest themselves in the form of ideas, not very coherent as yet but that do express the yearning for change.

In our case, I would like to say, we who are living this change in paradigm, that is, everybody, every man and woman, we beings, who are evolving on the planet through our minds have the handicap of living in this paradigm with the contradictory mind that must fragment everything in order to understand it. (This means that we are not able to unify philosophy and practice, that is, either we think or we do.) Of course, for Socrates, for example, who didn’t act from the contradictory mind, but rather from the mind that we are destined to reach (thanks be to God), Philosophy meant to “learn to learn”, or to “learn to see more and more and more.” It meant that understanding wakes the mind and leads us to wise, conscious and responsible action. This active comprehension, this entrance into other realms of the mind, provokes transformation and a change in paradigm, a profound social change at all levels. It transforms not only the exterior social realm but even provokes in each of us a change in our brain, new connections are formed in the mind that has learned to learn, that has learned to see.

Therefore, a change in mentality means more than just accepting the idea that change is necessary and that we must change. I have commented on other occasions that a transformation takes place once enough changes have occurred for this to happen. A change in mentality or a change in mind-set implies being disposed to a passionate Change. It means becoming a tractor for preparing the way so that a more advanced society can become a reality. All this occurs in the realm of the mind.

But this doesn’t mean that “now this is no longer correct, now we must do the opposite”, for example, because this reasoning belongs to the dual mind, the contradictory mind, the mind that only sees in terms of opposites. For concepts as vast as the ones with which we are dealing in the Knowledge Society, such as those established in the recent Lisbon Summits, the contradictory mind is no longer an adequate tool; it is suffocating, drowning the arrival of the future and
postponing the imminent achievement of the critical mass which is trying to crystallize.

Therefore, when we speak of a change in mind-set, we are really speaking of something as innovative as learning to access that state of mind in which we experience opposites as complementary. I am going to try to explain by way of example using the “win-win” concept with which we are all familiar:

For the contradictory mind, or the dual mind in which we live and which we have been using for some time… if one wins, the other looses, and that is the way things are. In order for one to win with me, he/she must be my friend, or I must be interested in him or her for one reason or other. At the same time, other lose, or, at best, they don’t win as much, or I let them win something, or as much as I – for the good of the market.

When I make a deal or form an alliance of the type we are all accustomed to, my partners and I win. This is what we call win-win (that is to say, it is better that we each loose a little and that everyone wins something). We could continue this way for some time, this is business as it is: make deals so as not to lose, or loose a little, or win… In the old days (but not so long ago and still practiced today), a handshake was the guarantee; there was nothing stronger than the honor implied by one’s word.

But now, and with this I return to the concept of words and their meanings, can somebody please tell me what “win-win” means? Do we really think that saying it in English (rather than Spanish) changes the significance, or gives it more depth? Isn’t this the same thing we saw in the paragraph, above? Yes, it is the same. Only now my allies with whom I win-win are European, and there are more of them. But those who lose-lose are also more numerous and, unfortunately, they are the usual ones.

In the greater context of the emerging Knowledge Society, once transcended the meaning given it by the contradictory mind, Win-Win is more all encompassing. It speaks to us of Sustainability, of Innovation in People, and of Social Inclusion, of Vastness of mind or, at least for now open mindedness and flexibility in the face of change, of our search for the common good, including that of the animal and plant realms, of our objective of improving the world we live in and of contributing wealth and well being of all kinds. Win-Win in the Knowledge Economy, in the superior mind, means to go from


This is the new paradigm - in which money will evolve from being an end in itself to being a means to an end, in which the economy, education, politics will become an art form.

The key to the tool I propose, the tool I have to offer, lies in the “other possibility” described above, in learning to see more, that is, in developing “Increasingly Integral Vision.” And I understand that simultaneously, it is necessary to sensitize, to show what is happening, where it is happening, from what cause and for what purpose.