Meaning Engineering… or Writing, World Creating, and Godhood..

Ta-Nehisi Coates–one of my favorite bloggers ever has this fascinating post here…

While I don’t have much to add about how Maureen Dowd is a hack and disingenuous at best.. I found myself disagreeing with the notion that a “writer is a species of god” that TNC puts forth. Eventually, I left a comment on the page.. this is what it was:

Like some of the others–I have a problem with the metaphor of “writer as a species of god” here… (For transparency’s sake–I’ll note that I teach writing to Engineering students, have a Ph.D in the History of Science/Technology, and read lots of mythology… I also think Maureen Dowd’s columns have more to do with her own ego-trip than any real attempt to enlighten us in some meaningful fashion…)

In any case, perhaps I’m being picky, but I think the concept of “god” is too loaded here and misleads more than it explains.

I say this not because I don’t believe that writers create worlds and shape our perceptions of this world–sure.. that’s obviously true in my experience–but why does that equal “godhood.”

Gods, while often put in the creator role, are not the only creators. Humans–such as engineers, architects, and many others–also profoundly shape the natural, built, and mental landscapes we live in.
Does that make them equally gods?

I guess you could say so–but it seems to lose something in the process.

Furthermore, in such a strongly Judeo-Christian shaped society as our own–it’s hard to get past a lot of the inherent “monotheistic” flavoring that the word “god” has. A writer as a “world creator” implies a lot more power than most writers actually have. While it is true that I know about India through writers–the key here is that “s” on the end of “writers.”

I have read about India in 20+ different books. I have learned about it from reports that don’t always agree and sometimes even directly contradict each other.

If this is the “world” created by writers–which world is it? Do creator gods have to deal with possibly hundreds of other gods changing their creations in fundamental ways?

Overall, it just doesn’t seem as helpful to me to use this “god” metaphor for writers… It is too laden with other meanings that distract rather than enlighten.

I, personally, prefer to see myself as a “Meaning Engineer” and one of the main ways that I create meaning in my life is through my writing. This metaphor is not as loaded and it allows for a more nuanced, accessible, and malleable discussion of the process by which writing shapes and is shaped by the world.

Another metaphor that I thought of here would be that of “Writer as Hero”–but a very particular kind of hero… Specifically, I’m thinking of a hero that showed up in the Elric series, who reached the Dark Lady in the Castle Kaneloon at the edge of the world. This Hero’s force of personality allowed him to forge new lands in the world and to beat back the forces of chaos. This hero was but one of a long line of creators–and future heroes would obviously shape and reshape the lands thus made…

That’s what writers are like to me–heroes crystallizing a particular kind of order out of the chaos of experience.

Again.. perhaps I’m just being picky here.. but this excellent blog post got me thinking…


About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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2 Responses to Meaning Engineering… or Writing, World Creating, and Godhood..

  1. levelsofillusion says:

    …”If this is the “world” created by writers–which world is it? Do creator gods have to deal with possibly hundreds of other gods changing their creations in fundamental ways?”…
    Billions I would say! Not all writing of course, but “constructing” along cultural pathways. I would imagine that every sentient being in the universe is a “Meaning Engineer”. Or… at least a tinkerer. Are we not all held aloft on wings of illusion?

    • tricstmr says:

      I agree about all of us being creators of meaning–well.. in the weak sense I agree that we are all creators of meaning–since I believe all meaning is created by us–but I do think that there are different levels of meaning creation–just as there are different levels of impact that people can have on the environment around us.
      We may all be consumers–but not all of us are consciously involved in the construction and shaping of the environment around us.

      In this sense–in terms of culture–some people have a more direct impact by populating the “culture world” with entities of some persistence and which take up cultural space..

      Now I’ll go comment on your homo-suggestibilis post…

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