A common problem people have today is their inability to answer the question, “What is the meaning of life? Struggling to find their meaning of life and failing to recognize their significance on this planet leads them to feel lost, not knowing what direction to follow. Without the answer to this essential question, lacking the knowledge to get past this obstacle, it will be challenging to continue on their journey. In order to find true meaning in life, one must positively endure their darkest times, recognize what can be learned from it, and understand their responsibilities.
In “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, he shares his discovery of meaning through his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He tells us how it was torturous in there, constantly being forced to do physically demanding work. They were also given small portions to eat and lived in horrible conditions, causing all to doubt that they can withstand another day. However, through these sufferings, Viktor Frankl was able to discover the way to find meaning in life:
“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity — even under the most difficult circumstances — to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation, he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal” (Frankl 67)
He was able to live on this thought and never gave collapsed, urging himself to live through the hardship. Even when he was at his lowest times, having to watch other prisoners get killed in gas chambers and die from sickness did not weaken his faith. He strongly believed that he can survive. This was because he was a psychologist and he noticed that those who lost hope found no meaning in the camps, ultimately giving in to death.
“Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would have never achieved. To the others of us, the mediocre and the halfhearted, the words of Bismarck could be applied: Life is like being at the dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and yet it is over already.” Varying this, we could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners. (Frankl 72)”
This is the point where Frankl was able to find meaning through the darkness. He saw the light at the end and was able to achieve it. He learned from the experiences, transforming them so instead of hurting him, it saved him.
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any how.” (Frankl 80)
In our darkest times, we are able to really fall to our lowest point to suffer, think, and reflect on our past. That is when we can discover our true meaning of life, finding the responsibility or task to accomplish. When we understand that, we will then able to find our purpose.
“The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more, except his God.” (Frankl 93)
In the article, “Finding Meaning in Life”, Tom Flynn recognizes that many Christians have an easier time answering the ultimate question. He explains how believers are able to hold on to the thought that their lives were not given by chance, but through a work of authorship. Why I mention this is because a huge part of finding meaning is believing. If we do not believe, there will be no faith, and without faith, there will be no destiny, which is what crafts our path in life.
One certainly does not have to go through a horrible experience to find the answer. It is because determining our morals, origins of life, and personal mission can also comprehend the meaning of it. Paul Thagard, a Canadian philosopher, had views that supported this idea. In his book “The Brain and The Meaning of Life”, he talks about how the way we depict right from wrong or go through unpleasant ideas will not give us reasons for living. He reveals how love, work, and play will provide the solution, requiring us to abandon our ideas about the soul and immortality. This way, we can find our purpose through our process of life, finding a meaning behind the things we do every day.
When one is able to endure his darkest times, recognize the lesson behind it, and ultimately understand the responsibility it has given them, they will be able to find the true meaning of life. It was because Frankl was able to so that he survived the concentration camps as well as discovering his own purpose, realizing his importance on this planet. Although he is only one of many examples, we too can determine our meaning through the believing and manipulation of various life situations.
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Bellin, Zvi. “Meaning through Being: Reclaiming the Wholeness of Personal Meaning.” Journal of Humanistic Counseling, vol. 52, no. 2, 2013, pp. 208+. Questia School, questiaschool.com/read/1G1-348979208/meaning-through-being-reclaiming-the-wholeness-of.
Flynn, Tom. “Finding Meaning in Life: Introduction. (the Search for Meaning).” Free Inquiry, vol. 22, no. 1, Winter 2001, p. 35. Questia School, questiaschool.com/read/1G1-82137223/finding-meaning-in-life-introduction-the-search.
Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: an Introduction to Logotherapy. Boston, Beacon Press, 1946.
Thagard, Paul. The Brain and the Meaning of Life. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2010.
I value this piece a lot because it is meaningful and I put a lot of time and effort into it. It was enjoyable to write because I was able to somewhat analyze and share how a jew found meaning in his darkest times, and that we can do the same. I like writing these essays because I can put my own thoughts into it and send a clear message to the reader.