Friday, November 16, 2007

Man's Search for Meaning

I don't remember the moment I found out Santa Claus wasn't real, but I remember Christmas not being as fun without that belief. Recently I read a great book by Mary Roach titled "Spook". It scientifically disproves the afterlife. Up until this point I childishly held on to the belief of ghosts as some indication of an afterlife. After reading this book a lost not a hope for great presents, but hope that I won't just rot in the ground when I die. Needless to say that for a while this proved to be a very depressing prospect for me, haunting my thoughts at every thing I did. If there is nothing after this, what is the point of doing anything at all? As much as I wanted to lie to myself and ignore the facts, I couldn't turn away from the tangible proof that has been presented not only in this book, but other research as well. Just because I want something doesn't make it real, otherwise I'd have more money in the bank. However this book did more than depress me. It made me realize that if I only have this life, I need to make the most of it. This ultimately led to the question "What is the meaning of my life".
At about this time Bjorn recommended another great and influential book to me. "Man's Search for Meaning" by Vickor Frankl gave me an entirely different perspective on things. He was a victim of Auschwitz, and a proponent of logotherapy. I will briefly talk about some things that I could relate to. Much of it talks about living through suffering. As I have not had significant suffering in my life, I cannot relate.
The beauty of life. One often feels alive when they look upon a sunset or climbs a beautiful mountain. In Frankl's experience just a branch with the leaves on it was enough to make his day. Find beauty in life wherever you can find it. This ties in with keeping positive. Today people have such trite complaints. Frankl would find joy in the day by finding a piece of cloth, or working with a foreman who beat him less. Focus more on the good things than the bad. What is the point of making yourself feel horrible, unless your a sadist.
The thing that struck me the most was the possibility that life doesn't have one meaning, but many small meanings. There is a different meaning to one's life at any given moment. It is one's responsibility to the world to carry out these tasks. This is enough to personally get me going through life and take a Universalistic approach to it. Try to make every decision based on how it will positively effect other people. Don't end up a nihilist like Bjorn.
Frankl quotes Nietzsche "he who has a why to live can bear almost any how". This is a beautiful quote and means so much to me. Because I have one life I need to make the most out of it, not sit around depressed that in a billion years none of what I do will matter anyway because human kind will be no more. I don't know exactly what my why is but I have an idea. I only have so much time to implement it. I better get my ass in gear and live my how.


JKC said...

I loved this book. I read it in high school. I wouldn't say that it changed my life, but it gave me a way to articulate my attitude about choosing happiness. I think everyone should read it.

I especially liked the part where he described how those who hoarded their food were always hungrier than the ones who would give away their last crust of bread to do something for someone else. Karma, I guess; or something like it.

Bentley Snow said...

I liked your ideas and post quoting Frankyl who quoted Nietzsche--a great resolution to live better!