The Ultimate Meaning of Life Reveals Itself if You Listen
After suffering a severe crisis, people often contemplate the ultimate meaning of life. After surviving the holocaust, Victor Frankl wrote Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything. After a different pandemic claimed two of her children, Mary Shelley wrote The Last Man which explored what makes life worth living. Walt Whitman wrote of this same question, after he suffered a paralyzing stroke.
These people knew suffering intimately. They didn’t try to forget. They didn’t try to pretend it never happened. They didn’t become embittered. Each one emerged from their crisis, with a valuable gift for the world. After allowing themselves time to fully experience their life, including the pain, they derived a sense of meaning from it. Then they bared their souls and we benefit today from their insights.
I’m not saying it’s easy. However, as we come out of each crisis, whether it’s this pandemic, racial injustice, or something even more personal, we can emerge with clearer vision. It may be a struggle to keep shame, hatred, bitterness, and resentment from clouding how you see yourself, others and the world. Left to fester, these unresolved feelings will obscure clear thinking. I hope that you can summon up the internal strength to include in your healing process a contemplation of how you can create a better you — as a member of your family, your community, and the world.
Here are some ways to remain open, as you find YOUR ultimate meaning of life…
Express faith in humanity.
We can become disillusioned with life when circumstances rob us of our greatest treasures or someone has abused or disappointed us severely. It’s so important to avoid fatalism and defeatism. Thoughts such as “my life is over,” “my world is gone”, will blind you to the gift of being fully present in the moment.
Never forget that you WILL find good, caring individuals, if you look for them. You have power that no one can take away — your attitude. More than that, you can be instrumental in elevating someone in need. How? First, you must see their potential. Then, with patience, as you repeatedly and sincerely express appreciation for and ascribe great worth to the person, the general response will be to rise to your expectations.
I invite you to adopt as your own what Hermann Hesse said, “It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.”
Hone your sense of humor.
Viktor Frankl survived the inhumane treatment at the Auschwitz concentration camp by keeping his sense of humor alive. But he didn’t stop there. He encouraged the worker alongside him to develop a sense of humor. They made a pact to invent at least one amusing story daily, about some incident that could happen one day after their liberation. Exercising your sense of humor, while suffering, is a practice in the art of living. It’s another personal freedom no one can take from you.
Be responsible TO life.
Instant gratification and pursuit of pleasure can make us forget the very essence of what it means to be alive. It’s not all about us getting what we think is owed. It’s about what we can contribute. Some think of it as leaving a legacy. We don’t bully and prod life into the form we want it to take. Life continually presents us with new opportunities and challenges. From our chosen responses, we let life mold us.
When we become mindfully present in the moment, quieting our minds, we can finally hear what life is asking of us. And each question life asks will be specific to only you, in the present. Since we are all at different points of life’s journey, life can’t ask the same of us all, at the same time. But you can be certain that each question will involve how you show up as being interdependent in the network of humanity. I love how Pablo Casals puts it, “I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.”
As the collective memory of each generation tends toward forgetfulness and erasure, let’s choose to remember how each of us rose above, by exercising our freedom — our freedom to choose our own attitude, our own path and helping others along the way.
You may feel lost, unmoored and adrift, without direction. If you’re struggling with finding YOUR ultimate meaning of life, I invite you to contact me personally and schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation by phone or via Zoom to see if we’re a good fit for working together.
Thanks for the photo, SOULSANA.