At first, I wanted to write a short article on human thought without going into epistemological, nor gnoseological issues. A short abstract, confusing, critical, complex, emotional, rational, systemic, circular, absolute, circumstantial, educational and informative story about our way of thinking. After a brief search on the internet, in which apparently no one agrees on whether there are 9, 11, 16, 24 or more types of thinking, I remembered that I had some books on the subject in my personal library and I looked for more background documentation.
To my own surprise in this search I came across a small book out of place. Wanting to put it next to the other books of its author, I stopped to read it again, since lately I read a lot of comments about the purpose and meaning of life. Many of you may already know what book I mean, and surely some of you have read it on a certain occasion. Not surprisingly, the book is listed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as one of the ten books that have changed the course of humanity.
So, I discarded the initial idea of writing about human thought, which I will do later, and set out to reflect on the purpose and meaning of life. I sat down on my couch and read it for hours. However, and before beginning to describe my impressions of this book, allow me to recommend reading the other works of Viktor Frankl, which, in my humble opinion, more clearly describe the concepts of the headline of these reflections.
Man’s Search for Meaning
It is impossible for me to describe my feelings without considering many events leading up to his ordeal. Frankl voluntarily refused to emigrate to the United States because his parents could not accompany him into exile between 1941 and 1942, he had a manuscript about to be finished and published, he had married a few months before being sent to the concentration camps, to the just like all his professional work prior to that after the First World War. Carrying out a profound reading, understanding and description “isolated, separated or divided” only of his experiences during the holocaust in the concentration camps, would be to reduce Frankl´s own reality and with it everything described in the book, as well as to ignore that his theory or his model of therapy, Logotherapy and Existential Analysis had already been tested with great success during previous years whilst working in Vienna. A reading from the “inner gaze”, taking into account the “inherited, acquired and chosen” by Viktor Frankl himself, makes me understand his suffering, and value even more, his actions and choices described in so many emotional and rational details.
Reading the book has caused me an unusual combination of feelings, often contradictory, including bitter, bittersweet, terrifying, hopeful, as well as great helplessness, anger and shame in the face of injustices and lack of humanity on the part of man, back then as well as nowadays. However, positive feelings predominate thanks to the exceptional acts of a few in the face of the apparent senselessness of such barbarism.
It is precisely because of the experiences lived, his testimony in work and life, before, during and after his own “experimentum crucis” that gives him a certain authority when speaking or writing about the meaning of life, the sense of responsibility and the will of meaning.
It is through existential analysis, critical, complex and systemic thinking, as well as philosophy and anthropology, and excuse me if I include them now, that we come to understand both the difference, as well as the interdependence and transdimensionality of the two concepts in the title and object of these reflections. Purpose and meaning of life.
It is like the relationship between will, meaning, freedom and responsibility. They do not only coexist but cannot exist without the other.
Frankl writes that “…one of the basic postulates of logotherapy is that the main interest of man is not to find pleasure, or avoid pain, but to find meaning in life, which is why man is even willing to suffer provided that suffering has a meaning”. This postulate reminds us of the importance of our own attitude to and awareness of our circumstances.
I remember very well the words of my mentor quoting Viktor Frankl when I finished my master’s degree in Counseling and Existential Analysis: “Logotherapy focuses on the meaning of human existence, as well as on man’s search for said meaning … That is why I speak of will to meaning.” With which, according to Frankl, man is free, both to choose and to decide, just as he is free to be responsible voluntarily and through spirituality.
However, and this is something that I have been able to see and experience over the last years and not only with my clients, it is only through values that the person can fulfill said will of meaning, fulfilling its purpose. and finding meaning.
Returning once again to the title and the concepts of the purpose and meaning of life, I can only summarize that the purpose lies within everything we do, be it to think, feel, act, that is to say that the purpose is given by us, we give it to our actions, while the meaning arises from this purpose. Meaning is found through purpose. Without purpose there is no meaning.
That is why it is so important to give and have a purpose in our actions and with them our lives. One way to do this is through having a philosophy of life. A philosophy on purpose and with purpose.
In any activity and in all circumstances of life, we as people act according to our own vision of the world and perception of life itself, according to our “Weltanschauung”, our worldview or personal philosophy, built through our experiences, knowledge, conditioning and motivations, actions and omissions. Philosophy is the inevitable basis of all thought and with it of all knowledge or “knowing.”
Values and meanings are part of the subjective reality of each person, as is the need to make sense of our options, our experiences and the circumstances of our own lives. The meaning of one’s existence is also the supreme value of all human experience.
The core of the person is unconscious because the spiritual dimension is essentially an unreflected reality and radically inaccessible to consciousness. The humanity of man begins in the sphere of existence, which in its real depth is unconscious.
Considering people free and capable of self-determination, ultimately, we have the freedom of will and with it a triple freedom. We are free for, free from and free before, but in the reality of freedom responsibility is affirmed above all. Only conditioned is man unconditioned.
The purpose and meaning of life are achievable and obtainable. On many occasions they escape us because of a mismatch or disorientation in our lives due to lack of awareness, attention, training, evaluation and adequate communication, with ourselves and with others. All being factors within our own responsibility and field of action.
Sf you want to delve into this topic and learn what it means to“act with purpose and live with meaning”, I invite you to get straight to the point.
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