Monday, May 22, 2006

The Trellis

A trellis is a framework on which vines can grow. If you want to help a vine establish itself, a trellis -- which is often just a grid of thin wooden slats -- may be necessary.

It's hard to grow without a framework on which to rest, a model of what you're aiming at, or a defined direction.

The framework is beneficial because it creates order, which in turn creates focus and calm. It excludes other possibilities, and conquers chaos, to use the title of a great SF novel by John Brunner.

Recently, I went to the dentist, full of worry because I thought that I had serious problems with my teeth. I had gotten the impression, over the last year or so, that I had a number of cavities, in addition to some cosmetic work that needed doing -- and perhaps one weak tooth, which would need a bridge.

I got to his office, and he did a thorough examination, which brought good news: my teeth are strong (even the one I thought was weak), and the dental work needed is not nearly as much as I had feared. So the dentist's examination provided a new framework for my understanding of my dental health: rather than worry needlessly, I can now focus on simple oral hygiene, get the work I need, and not have to spend extra energy on being concerned that, all of a sudden, I'll have a dental emergency on my hands.

So, to get back to our metaphor, the trellis -- the framework upon which the vine of my understanding about my dental health can grow -- is the dentist's examination and his informed opinion. Without that, I am in chaos about my dental situation and my choices.

So it is with life in general. Having a framework of meaning, whether it's furnished by religion, your company, an authority figure, a parent, etc. is essential to creating the order which allows you to go forward with confidence. In the above example, I received a framework of meaning about my teeth from a recognized authority, the dentist. A soldier may receive a framework of meaning from his commanding officer, allowing him to go forward in confidence with the battle. Or a politician may receive that framework from a party leader, etc.

My point here is that a structure of meaning is necessary for life.

What is your structure of meaning? Who do you depend on to explain the world and give it purpose?


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