The above architecture is that of the Fallingwater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 as a nature retreat for Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr, which is probably also deemed as one of America’s extraordinary houses.
What does a renown house like the Fallingwater has anything to do with the meaning of life? To you and I, the connection may not be so direct. However, to Frank Lloyd Wright, could the meaning of his life be, ‘to create masterpieces like the Fallingwater.’ Or did he give his life meaning by creating masterpieces like the Fallingwater?
In Viktor E. Frankl‘s book, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning,’ he said that a lot of people are going through life asking, ‘what is the meaning of life,’ when they should be giving their lives meaning by what they are doing everyday. Previously I was also constantly asking myself what is the meaning of life and it was like a dog chasing its own tail; I was going round and round in circle.
Then what I read in Viktor’s book made sense to me. When one is searching for the meaning of life, one is not in control of whatever life throws at one. However, when one gives his/her life meaning, one is in control of whatever he/she does. Then what meaning should one gives to his/her life?
In Bill Strickland‘s book, ‘Make the Impossible Possible,’ he mentioned, “… a good life isn’t something you wait for, or chase after, or try to possess; it’s something you must create, moment by moment, on the foundation of your dreams.” What Bill said resonates with what Viktor had mentioned in his book isn’t it?
The connecting dots are then in the dreams that each individual holds. In so speaking, there is a need to know what are one’s dreams. Failing to know one’s dreams in life will make it impossible to live a fulfilled and happy life. Then how does one know his/her dreams? The question is, ‘what are we passionate about in life?’ Found out what we are passionate about and then build our dreams based on our passion.
Now, “What is the meaning are you giving to life?”
——————————————————- Thanks to Vanilla Seven for giving me the Lemonade Award. Vanilla Seven is a blog about Design, Art, and Photography. The one that caught my attention most and kept me going back to this site is some of the awesome photos you can find in this blog. Do drop by to take a look; you won’t be disappointed.
There is a general saying that says, “Everything happened for a reason.” Do you believe or rather do you agree with that saying? Just as a coin has two sides, some of you will agree with that and others will not. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in whether you choose to believe in it or not. I believe that ‘Everything happened for a reason.‘ Sometimes we can see the reason immediately after it happened. At times, the reason will only be seen much later and when you see the reason, it’ll be like those moments of ‘aha!’ That was why it happened.
For people who believe in a Greater Being above, they will say that they are being put through tests to prepare them for greater things ahead. For me, I see it as opportunities for growth; chances for me to surpass myself to become a better person so that I can be of better service to others around me. My aim is not to ask you to search for the reasons for everything that happened but rather to believe that you too are given unique opportunities to grow.
In so speaking, that will lead to the following statement, “Is there meaning to suffering too?” If we applied the above saying, then suffering happened for a reason too and suffering too provides opportunities for one to grow. In the book Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl under ‘The Meaning of Suffering’ in page 112, he said, “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves.”
He went on to cite an example of one of his cases:
Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now, how could I help? What should I tell him? Well, I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see. Doctor, such suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering – to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.” … In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.”
On a seperate account he shared:
“…when a rabbi from Eastern Europe turned to me and told me his story. He had lost his wife and their six children in the concentration camp of Auschwitz where they were gassed, and now it turned out that his second wife was sterile … the rabbi evaluated his plight as an orthodox Jew in terms of despair that there was no son of his own who would ever say Kaddish (a prayer for death) for him after his death.
I made a last attempt to help him by inquiring whether he did not hope to see his children again in Heaven. However, my question was followed by an outburst of tears, and now the true reason for his despair came to the fore: he explained that his children, since they died as innocent martyrs, were thus found worthy of the highest place in Heaven, but as for himself he could not expect, as an old sinful man, to be assigned the same place. I did not give up but retorted, “Is it not conceivable, Rabbi, that precisely this was the meaning of your surviving your children: that you may be purified through these years of suffering, so that finally you, too, though not innocent like your children, may become worthy of joining them in Heaven?”
Although this is Viktor E. Frankl’s ways or methods in helping his patients find meanings in what they are going through, I do see the underlying opportunities for his patients to grow through their incidences. One does not always have to search for the reasons or meanings for what happened, but to always believe that ‘Everything happened for a reason‘ and always attached with an unique opportunity to grow.
What do you think? Do you believe that ‘Everything happened for a reason’ too? Or do you have your own way to put it? Do feel free to share it with us in the comment.
A few days back, I read a good article from my sister’s laptop on attitude and what really captured my attention was a quotation from Viktor E. Frankl. Viktor was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who spent two-and-a-half-year period in concentration camp.
Through his personal experience in the concentration camp, he shared that what determined the sort of person the inmate would become ultimately was an inner decision and not the influenced of the camp alone. He said,
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This quotation comes at the most fascinating hour. I was just reading Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and in the book, there were a few passages that questioned, “could the environment and the things that happened to a person eventually change the person’s soul from good to bad and vice versa?” I couldn’t reconcile with that.
I couldn’t have agreed more with Viktor Frankl. I believe that even in the most difficult time, even when one is deprived of life, liberty, or property from an external force, one’s freedom to choose one’s attitude cannot be taken away from one. In so to speak, it is important that we guard our attitudes at all time especially during tough times.
One cannot always control every situation and thing that happens or how they happen. However, one can always control one’s attitude toward every situation and thing after they happened to one. That alone is a most enlightening thought but yet rarely put to use by many. How would one’s life be if one can look at every situation with an attitude that one can make it work or make it better? One’s life would definitely not be the same again!
“I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” — Wayne Dyer
What do you see in human experience?
C.G. Jung said that in Western civilization, the ancient office of tribal “ritual elder” was less and less occupied by clergy. Changes in modern institutional religion have turned parish clergy into administrators, teachers and fundraisers, and less and less available for the ancient symbolic functions of meaningful ritual and “testing the spirits” (discernment).
Jung believed that modern therapists were largely the default recipient of the shamanic role. This has always intrigued me and made me nervous.
I want to extend an invitation to veteran therapist/counselor types — you modern elders — who might be in earshot of this column: What do you notice? Wrap your arms around the years of individuals, couples, kids, teens and families that moved through your practice. What themes do you see in the modern human experience, either positive or negative? Put all that into a two- to six-sentence paragraph, and send it to me.
Here are a few things I notice:
* People seek redemption. Yep, regardless of religion or no-religion, people long to convert banal human experience into redemptive meaning: birth, belonging, hope, vocation, sex, pride, humility, fear, joy, forgiveness, justice, evil, anger, values, moral failure, guilt, grief, love, meaning, child-rearing, aging, death. You can see how Jung arrived at his conclusion; the list of presenting issues in therapy is virtually synonymous with the needs and hungers of any pilgrim on a religious journey.
* There is no escaping the paradox of The Individual and The Collective. Meaning, we cannot participate creatively in the wider human experience without possession of a healthy, separate self. Yet, the only way to grow a healthy, separate self is to participate in the collective.
* People are designed for relationships. Seems funny how often I remind folks of this. I think “individualism” is a near cult in America. People are surprised, made anxious, threatened, even embarrassed by their yearning for deep friendships, kinship and a great love affair. We embrace insipid mantras — or sometimes hear them from therapists who mean to encourage — such as, “You’re fine alone.” You’ll never hear that from me. Instead you’ll hear, “You’re fine enough alone.”
* Western civilization is a neurosis factory. Anxiety, self-consciousness, self-doubt. An overwhelming tendency to attach undue and largely negative meaning to self. So common is this outcome in human formation that consulting therapists will describe patients with a shrug, saying, “He’s a normal neurotic.” Meaning, he’s just like everybody else. Just like me, for that matter.
* People have answers for most of their questions. In fact, it’s uncommon for patients to ask me an honest question; meaning, a question seeking actual information about which they are ignorant. Nope, the majority of questions are rhetorical. The patient poses the “great mystery/crisis/dilemma” inquiry as a segue, a stage. Give them some room, and they will usually answer their own questions.
* Children need to be admired. They need to hear the “wow” in the voice of the mother, the father. They need to see the wonder in our eyes.
* Children are absurdly forgiving and breathtakingly resilient.
* We marginalize adolescents, yet reserve the right to complain about their despair.
* The best thing I have to say about hitting children is that it is unnecessary.
* The “nuclear family” is a ridiculous and historically unprecedented way to raise children.
* Narcissistic parenting patterns dominate the current culture of child rearing.
* As a group, we have sold ourselves a shameless bill of goods regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. We’re personally affronted when we discover that our marriage has failed to sustain “in-lovedness” and happiness. We tell ourselves that divorce and remarriage is a terrific strategy for growth and personal development. No data supports this idea.
* Modern people are tragically separated from their symbols. Said another way, materialism and rationalism rule the day, both at the cost of meaning.
* It’s not abuse that makes children — and later, adults — feel or act crazy and destructively, it’s not being allowed to have any feelings about our abuse. To be separated from the reality of our emotional reality — that is crazy-making!
We’ve come a long ways, but it remains today axiomatic: Men can’t cry, and women can’t get angry. I’m serious. Can’t tell you how many times individual therapy with a man includes helping him take grief and loss seriously. Can’t tell you how many times individual therapy with a woman includes helping her take anger and outrage seriously.