This Mark Twain quote was shared by a friend on facebook and led me to muse over it and the result is this post.
In Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl often quotes Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” The “why” is what he calls the meaning of one’s life, which according to Frankl is the patient’s will to strive, succeed, and to live.
Man can also find meaning by suffering. When one is faced with suffering, and there is nothing he can do to change his predicament, the only remaining option is for him to change his perspective, to change the way in which he views the situation. An example that Frankl gives is of a story of a grieving widower who had lost his wife. The man came to Frankl to ask for advice. Frankl asked the man, “What would have happened…if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive without you?” Through this question, the suffering the man was enduring gained a new purpose, he was mourning, but his wife would not have to mourn him.
This story of the widower helped me overcome my own grief of losing my wife and friend of 48 years, but understanding that the relationship was because I was happy in it and the grief was in losing that state of happiness, came about by my study of Vedanta about which I shall elaborate a little later.
I had posted a video post of the Dalai Lama and in commenting on it, Monk had given me a link to one of her old posts that is very interesting on the subject of finding meaning. She had written it before I started visiting her blog and so was not aware of that post. Having read it, I was inspired to include the link here for reference, as the subject matter is the same as that of this post.
My regular readers will remember that I am a student of Vedanta. For a Vedantin, ie one who is a follower of the Vedanta system of philosophy, the purpose of one’s life is to find Moksha (Liberation) which is to get released from the cycle of births and deaths. A student of the system, tries to achieve jivan mukti, which is to find the liberation in this life itself. What this implies is that he finds and abides in the happy himself during this life itself. So, the purpose of finding out why he was born is to recognise that he was born to become a jivan mukta.
If all that sounds very mumbo jumbo, simply stated, it is to reach that inner space which is naturally a happy state, but which has been overwritten by other impressions which need to be discarded. The process of discarding those impressions and abiding in the released state is the purpose of, at least, my life.
If you are interested in probing further about your own purpose / meaning, you can try the twenty minute formula that Cheerful Monk shares in her post a link to which I have given above.