For the next few weeks, we will have no fewer than four powerful planets (Venus, Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter) in retrograde. Quite literally, the world as we knew it just a few months ago as fallen apart leaving us with the thrilling opportunity – and perhaps also an awesome responsibility – to do things differently.
With this line up of planets (apparently) moving backwards through the sky, it’s easier than usual to reflect upon and reappraise the way that we are in ‘in the world’ right now, today. In turn, this allows us to move forward into the ‘new normal’ of tomorrow with conscious ‘intentionality’.
The concept of Intentionality comes from the work of the early 20th century existentialist philosopher, Edmund Husserl. His specialty was phenomenology, or the science of looking ‘to the things in themselves’.
He believed that intentionality dictates the way in which we interact with our world. Sadly, more often than not our intentionality is fueled by the willy-nilly meanings we’ve assigned to the people and things that comprise our world as if we were operating on auto-pilot.
He also believed that it is only when we are able to bracket – or suspend – our existing assumptions about these people and things that we can see the world as it truly is and as the result make conscious decisions about how we will be ‘in the world’.
Through the eyes of an artist
Basically, his approach requires us to take the 3rd party point of view or stance of an artist or novelist, whose job it is to depict the world by showing rather than telling – a process this is much harder to accomplish than it might sound.
I’m walking my little dog through the park when I catch sight of a tree just beginning turn autumnal colors. After letting my dog off her lead, I turn back to that tree and become absorbed with the way the sunlight plays off the orange-red leaves.
Following a shaft of sunlight, my attention is now drawn to the stream that my dog and I cross each morning. I’m amazed at how the light now makes the softly flowing water sparkle like diamonds. The fluidity, coolness and movement I’m experiencing infuses the stream with life, one that I am amazed to realize is as poignant as my own.
I’m also amazed at how in my usual haste to get dog-walking over and done with, I’ve missed so much and whisper a word of gratitude that at least in this moment, the blinkers have fallen from my eyes and I’m able to receive the wonders of the world .
By disconnecting from the meanings/assumptions/values I’d usually ascribe to a tree or water, these ‘things’ take on new meaning.
For example, rather than being the stream over which I must cross to finish my chores, this stream has become a source of mystery and magic. For just a moment, I’m able to relate to my world with a conscious intention that shows me how very different the world around me really is than as I usually assume.
As the result, I promise myself that on dog-walks in the future, I’ll be more attentive, more observant, and with that comes a whole new way for me of ‘being in the world’. The idea is that like an artist or a novelist, rather than forcing things to be this or that by mindlessly assigning them meanings, I choose to let those things reveal themselves to me.
Don’t be mislead into believing that by remaining blinkered, we can avoid intentionality; according to Husserl we can’t do that even if we tried. It is a given that we will ascribe meanings to the people/events/things that comprise our world. But we’ll be better off all around when we choose to be more conscious about how we each make meaning. This is because meaning fuels intentionality which it turn, fuels the way that we interact with the world.
In summary, we cannot purposefully and consciously interact with the world until we can see the world as it is rather than how we’ve grown to assume it to be.
As you read each of the following, jot down all the assumptions that automatically come to mind. These may include words, images, thoughts, colors, smells – depending on how you usually ascribe meaning.
Next, challenge your assumptions and jot down as many alternative meanings to each sentences as you can. Try to put yourself into the shoes of that artist or novelist who uses the 3rd person point of view (i..e he/she did this or said that) in order to show rather than to tell.
- I’m fine.
- She ran like hell.
- Whatever you want.
- I know exactly what you mean.
- I bumped into him at the supermarket.
What have you noticed about the meanings that you automatically make in comparison with all the potential meanings that could be made? How might what you’ve noticed help you to know more about how you are living in the world right now and how differently you might want to live into the world of tomorrow?