I write a lot about texts because they are an important part of my life. I also don’t study texts the way most people seem to study them. I hear the text as a call to meaning, as if I am being questioned and I must answer. Frankl defines meaning as “what is meant” whether it is a person asking me a question or a reality that implies a question. Similarly textual study is for me yet another source of personal meaning.
By “personal” I don’t mean that I can invent meaning. Again, as Frankl explained, the meaning is objective, always something coming from beyond my limited scope and it has something to say to me personally. This makes my engagement in text different not only from the traditional intellectual type of study but also different from the trend that would have me hear in the text only what I wanted to hear to begin with.
The most inspiring group discussions I’ve been a part of have had a certain rare quality to them that furthers this objective and subjective meaning. They are intellectually stimulating and evocative of personal meaning at the same time. There is a sense of bonding in the room, not exactly like the bonding of a support group but a kind of merging of kindred spirits. One person expresses a thought and a second person picks it up and free associates as if it is part of her own continuing thought process.
We are not focused on how my idea is different from yours, whether I agree or disagree and how I can defend my position. We are focused on the texture of the tapestry. We are discovering different meanings there, and they are all part of what the text is saying. It is evoking different responses yet we too are interwoven as one, making my personal meaning relevant to yours and to yours and yours. It is not just a “turn-taking.” Life experiences inform the meaning of the text and the text addresses life experience. Finally all of our meanings together, becoming a call of meaning to each individual again.
To describe this phenomenon I’ve coined the term “collective mind.”
A few days ago the thought came to me of how we can implement this in our end-of-course workshop as part of our logotherapy training. I present it to you here.
Equipment: A white board. Each group participant has a notebook.
Stage I Interpretation: What was meant by the author?
The facilitators present a question or book quotation to the group, which is written on the board. Everyone is asked to contemplate the question and write in their notebooks any thoughts, answers or further questions that occur to them.
One participant shares his or her thoughts with the group.
Stage II Collective mind: Expanding the spectrum of meaning
The participants write in their notebooks whatever thoughts come to them in response to what the first participant said. This may take the form of agreement, disagreement, further insights, questions for clarification, additional questions this idea raises, etc. In turn, they share their thoughts. A short synopsis of each person’s thought is written on the board under the first person’s comments.
The board would look something like this:
• Response to the question
a) Response to the response
b) Second response to the response
c) Third response to the response, etc.
Stage III Personal meaning
The whole group now contemplates all the ideas put on the board, seeing them as one organic unit, or “collective mind” and again write in their notebooks a conclusion of sorts of the personal meaning this holds for them, based on what is on the board and also incorporating what they wrote at the beginning and did not share. How is this addressing me, inviting me, challenging me, etc?
What was written on the board before is erased. As each person shares out loud what he or she wrote, a shorthand version of this is written on the board.
Stage IV Highlighting values, meanings and uniqueness
In turn, each person is set up as the focus of attention, as each other participant gives a logotherapeutic response to the “focus participant” in the form of highlighting that person’s values or what seems to be a conscious or unconscious longing for meaning, challenging the person, noting in that person’s words a “key word” etc.
I am curious to know if anyone has experienced anything that sounds similar to this.