De-mystifying the language of deconstruction

by Nicole Dickson


Deconstruction is a word I’m hearing used more often within my social groups and on social media platforms. In fact, the word ‘deconstruction’ seems to have entered even the most colloquial of English vocabulary. It describes everything from architecture and music videos to milk tart and peppermint crisp on dessert menus. For some, it has elicited a bad rap for challenging traditional ways of thinking and understanding, posing a threat to established power structures and hierarchies. Deconstruction has been likened to a devastation and confusion about beliefs.  For others, deconstruction offers valuable insights into how ideas, beliefs and meaning shape our understanding of ourselves, our spirituality and the world around us.


Perhaps it might be helpful to deconstruct the word itself, as it were; to take it apart and look at a way of understanding it differently to glean your own understanding.


Imagine with me, if you will, a structure built of Lego. The comparison between deconstruction and taking apart blocks of Lego can help us understand the concept of deconstruction in a simplified way. In the same way as taking apart a structure of Lego involves breaking it down into individual blocks or components to understand how they fit together and form the structure, deconstruction involves taking apart a taken-for-granted idea, belief, or practice into its constituent parts to better understand the role it may play in your life.


In this sense, deconstruction involves examining how these pieces fit together, what role each one plays, how they can be rearranged, and how their meanings can be placed back together again, whether in the same way or in a different way.


Moreover, just as taking apart Lego blocks can reveal unexpected pieces or previously unseen connections, deconstruction can uncover hidden meanings or assumptions within an experience, idea, belief or practice.  In this way, deconstruction might help us better understand how ideas and beliefs shape our understanding of the world.


What if words such as ‘question’, ‘explore’, ‘discover’ or ‘examine’ were used instead of deconstruction?  What if the process of deconstructing the experience, idea, belief or practice included wondering questions such as the history and the effects on us and our relationships? Perhaps we would feel more able to re-construct experiences with a much richer understanding.


The aim of deconstruction in spirituality is not necessarily to reject or abandon all of our spiritual beliefs but rather to cultivate a more nuanced and authentic understanding of spirituality that is grounded in personal experience and enquiry. Through deconstruction, individuals may discover new and more expansive ways of experiencing and understanding the divine and find greater freedom and openness in their spiritual practice.


Perhaps, for everyday living, ‘deconstruction’ can best be understood as asking questions about the taken-for-granted ways things are and, in so doing, creating space for new thoughts and practices to emerge.

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