Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Meaning of Words

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend about the meaning of spiritual or spirituality. Some consider it acceptable to be 'spiritual' but not 'religious'. I can't wrap my head around that because the definition of the word refers to religion.
plural spir·i·tu·al·i·ties
Full Definition of SPIRITUALITY
1   something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such
2   clergy
3   sensitivity or attachment to religious values
4   the quality or state of being spiritual
: the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters : the quality or state of being spiritual                                                                             
   My friend stated that different people have different meanings for words so if my meaning includes a reference to religion it is not necessarily the same as another's meaning.  Hummmmm.....That is a problem for me:
Case in point: I was at the airport recently and I asked directions to a particular elevator that I knew would take me within a few feet of my parking spot in the overnight garage. I knew that I had taken the elevator to the tunnel and then walked to the escalator that took me to ticketing. The person giving the directions told me to go through the tunnel past the second 'crosswalk' and the elevator would be on my right. 

  1.  a marked path where people can safely walk across a street or road 
  2.  a specially paved or marked path for pedestrians crossing a street or road
Now that is a crosswalk to me. It crossed a street. I knew I had not gone outside when arriving at the airport and I could not understand why I had to go outside to return to the garage. The gentlemen was kind enough to walk me part of the way and I soon realized that my meaning of 'crosswalk' was quite different than his. He was referring to the 'people movers' or moving sidewalk as I have known it called.

Meaning matters. If everyone can have their own meaning then we can not communicate. We cannot do business, have relationships, become educated. The English language is fraught with double meaning words, fuzzy meaning words and even nonsense words but for the most part the important parts of communication are based on an accepted meaning. There are times when it is necessary to'define the terms' but I must hope that ordinary daily conversations are exempt from such formality.


ConvertTheAtheist said...

I use the term "spiritual" to mean "relating to the human spirit." Given that definition, I have no problem at all with a fully secular usage of the term.

Incidentally, this usage is not my own personal quirk; it was introduced to me during a platform (read: sermon) at a Sunday morning meeting of the St. Louis Ethical Society (similar to a secular Unitarian).

Interested said...

So that sends me looking for the meaning of spirit.


: the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power

: the inner quality or nature of a person

: a person

Hmmm..guess I never actually thought about the meaning because it has always brought visions of religion. I am still not likely to use it for describing myself but I do see where some might use it in a purely secular way.