Items selected by Jack Martin Leith
The originator of the pithy definition in the title is Edward Matchett, an industrial design and create-the-new pioneer.

Here is another succinct definition and a diagram showing the three main contributors to a meaningful life:

Meaning: three aspects
You can read more about the three ‘“types” here: The 3 Types of Meaning—and 10 Ways to Build Them, by Ryan M. Niemiec Psy.D., on Psychology Today website.

I have put the word ‘“types” in quote marks because, rather than a typology or hierarchy (the author also mentions ‘“levels”), I am seeing three factors or “elements” (he mentions this word too) that together contribute to meaningful moments and a meaningful life.

Thank you Kaleb, founder of the Kompendium Project, for introducing me to the article.

Four Pathways To Meaning, by Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, Ph.D
The Map of Meaning was originated by Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, PhD (pictured below), based on peer-reviewed academic research. She is a full Professor of Ethics and Sustainability at the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand (view profile) and Co‑founder and Chair of Map of Meaning International Trust.
Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, PhD
Read more on the Map of Meaning International website

Selected quotes about meaning

Meaning is fundamental in [Edward] Matchett’s workHis central 3-M equation says: ‘Make media1 plus matter meaningful’.

Meaning is taken as a given that each of us has and seeks to increase as best we can. It does not require us to have a conceptual model in order to work with it. It is inherent in our understanding of the world combined with consciousness of ourselves and the way we act. Meaning is our very reality.

Meaning implies that there is always far more than we know, feel or understand. For some, this is a spiritual reality and this spiritual reality is seeking to come into us. Matchett called this ‘media’ to suggest that this was a source of information that could enhance, increase and deepen our sense of meaning. In a more neutral sense, it corresponds to David Bohm’s speculations on active information. Bohm took the notion of ‘informing’ as to ‘put the form in’ and active information meant an informing from the depths of creation. The more active the information, the less it is associated with physical energy. This means that it has hardly any entropy associated with its transmission. Hence, it can be likened to a pattern.

What we do know, feel or understand is something that Matchett generally called ‘matter’. It is what is relatively fixed. Our thoughts are like that. To have something of ‘media’ brought into ‘matter’, so that the latter is transformed, is to increase meaning. In a simplistic way, media is the ‘unknown future’ and matter is the ‘known past’. At any moment, the boundary between the known and the unknown can shift.

Following the way of meaning entails that we are constantly engaged in a shifting interface between media and matter. It means to be ‘thinking’ rather than just having thoughts.

Source: ILM – introduction by Anthony Blake | ILM is Immediate Learning Method
1. Matchett talks about media in the same way I talk about intent | Read more about Matchett’s 3M (aka 5M) equation

I believe the biggest contributor to happiness is not having tons of stuff, but knowing your address in the universe of meaning.

Chris Arnade, The happy dysfunction of Dover, on UnHerd

While the Creative Life is not directly associated with traditional conceptualizations of happiness, the Creative Life appears to be associated with a more deeply meaningful life. In his book “Authentic Happiness“, Martin Seligman distinguishes between the “Pleasant Life” and the “Meaningful Life”. The Pleasant Life is what people tend to think of when they think of happiness: a life full of positive emotions and joy, and lacking challenge or struggle. The Pleasant Life is mainly about getting what you want and need. It is associated with feeling good in the moment, and being a taker more than a giver. In contrast, the Meaningful Life is linked to self-expression, and doing positive things for others. Certainly, there are factors that contribute to both the Pleasant Life and the Meaningful Life– including feeling connected to others, feeling productive, and not being alone or bored– but there are also some key differences between living a pleasant and meaningful life [pdf].

The Meaningful Life is associated with increased stress and anxiety, but it is also linked to greater integration of the past, present, and future, resiliency, and the ability to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties. After all, as the Buddhists have long noted, every life has its 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. “Humans may resemble many other creatures in their striving for happiness, but the quest for meaning is a key part of what makes us human, and uniquely so,” notes lead author Roy Baumeister.

Scott Barry Kaufman, The Creative Life and Well-Being, on Scientific American website

The word “meaning” doesn’t sound like a scientific concept. But it’s a property of brains, of consciousness and of living. […] The idea that meaning comes from us is very important, because it means we have to take responsibility. […] So what does it mean to live a finite, fragile life in an infinite, eternal universe? You’re not going to find meaning through the eyepiece of the telescope. Music, literature, art, science are different facets of the same attempt to explore what it means to be human.

Source: Brian Cox (physicist), ‘I’m very pleased we’ve got the same name’: Brian Cox meets Brian Cox, on The Guardian website.

Appropriate form requires and demands that Media-plus-Matter be Made Meaningful in time dt2 {the immediate Moment we label ‘now’). This cosmic law is possibly the most fundamental and primary law governing the entire Universe, including all the activities, mutations, symbioses and other progressive (and cataclysmic) developments and occurrences in the natural world … Yet man can, and usually does, escape its action in his own life, work and play – though always to his, and his fellow’s, disadvantage … The equation describing this law became known as the ”5M equation” (the five M’s are underlined in the above) its chief occupation and constant orientation being the producing of meaning.

Author’s Introductory Comment, Creative Action, Second Edition, by Edward Matchett | View Author’s Introductory Comment in full
2. Time dt (sometimes written time 𝛿t) is delta time. This can be understood as the shortest duration of time (Planck Time), or as the nothingness between one moment and the next, which I believe is the meaning here. Read more in The truly new comes from nothing.

Meaning can be a purely symbolic or linguistic reality, as in the meaning of a word. The question of life’s meaning thus applies symbolic ideas to a biological reality. Meaningfulness is presumably both a cognitive and an emotional assessment of whether one’s life has purpose and value. People may feel that life is meaningful if they find it consistently rewarding in some way, even if they cannot articulate just what it all means.

Source: Some key differences between a happy life and a meaningful life, by Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohsb , Jennifer L. Aakerc, and Emily N. Garbinsky, in The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2013, Vol. 8, No. 6, 505–516 | Download pdf

The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately pursue it, the less likely we are to find it.

Irvin Yalom, author of Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy

Continue reading

External websites

Awakening from the Meaning Crisis, a 50-part lecture series by John Vervaeke (50 YouTube videos)

The link between meaning and organizational health, by Rodgers Palmer and Bill Schaninger, in McKinsey Quarterly, October 2018

Making work meaningful: A leader’s guide, by Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen, in McKinsey Quarterly, October 2018

On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review (pdf) by Brent D. Rosso, Kathryn H. Dekas, and Amy Wrzesniewski, Research in Organizational Behavior, Volume 30, 2010, Pages 91-127

What Makes Work Meaningful — Or Meaningless, by Catherine Bailey, University of Sussex, and Adrian Madden, University of Greenwich, in MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2016 issue (subscription / limited access)

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