It makes sense to start with words as we are about to take off on a quest for meaning. Words are useful tools to create cracks in any type of complexity allowing to sneak in and start exploring. I think looking at the words “sense” and “meaning” points to the two modes with which we engage with the world.
“Sense” as the faculty of perception which aims to understand the omnipresent ambiguity. We use our senses to put things together and understand what is going on in order to survive the chaos around us. Most of the sense-making happens unconsciously - it is quick, reactive and prone to false conclusions. We are breaking in pieces, dissecting, deconstructing, analysing to get to the core of understanding.
“Meaning” refers to the notion of thoughtful intent and the way we relate to the world internally. Meaning-making is a slower process that requires reflection, time and conscious effort. It is the glueing of everything together, putting things in perspective, realizing one's own position, relation to the other and to the broader context.
They have a non-hierarchical relationship and serve different purposes. Both modes are important as they self-perpetuate feeding on each other's contribution to the experience of being.
The ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind. A group of blind men who have never seen an elephant encounter one for the first time and can touch only a part of the elephant's body. When describing their limited experience, each man gets their own idea of what the elephant is. Their senses are creating an image but without merging their impressions together they will never truly understand what the elephant is.
This parable is a reliable companion of mine, reminding me of the importance of sensing and constructing meaning, inseparable like the two wings of a bird. Perhaps catch yourself using these two faculties of the mind while being busy with your day? Even make it an exercise - find an “elephant”, try to “know” its individual parts and then “make” them work together. And while spotting a bird in the sky, wonder for a second, why is it not falling?