Guest Post: the meaning of life

By Lou DiVirgilio

The idea that anyone could know, in a comprehensive manner, the meaning of life, seems to most people an absurd notion.  Life qua life, is such an enormous, interwoven, complicated idea that it appears to defy comprehension, and further there is a general feeling today among Western Culture that a person searching for life’s meaning is wasting scarce energy, scarce time, and being counter productive.  “Monty Python,” a group of English funny men, created a satirical spoof movie called, The Meaning of Life.  Of course their title was meant to be sarcastic and to taunt the viewer with the high concept of “the meaning of life,” then they immediately began to mock it in the most irreverent of ways.  After many comedic skits, that had little to do with the meaning of life, the movie ended with one of the Monty Python crew sitting in a chair saying , “Oh! You really expected to see evidence of the meaning of life?”  Then he reaches over to a small table standing next to him, picks up the book setting there entitle, “The Meaning Of Life,” opens it and begins to read in a flippant manner, “treat every one as you would like to be treated, turn the other cheek, love your neighbor as yourself, blah, blah, blah,” then throws the book to the side on the floor as the movie ends. 


Viktor E. Frankl, a Viennese psychiatrist, wrote a book entitled, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  His presentation was taken seriously by millions of readers, owning to the facts that he was an immanent psychiatrist, and a survivor of Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau.  On page 154 of his book Frankl encapsulated his perception of the meaning of life, …”Man is not fully condition and determined, but rather determines himself whether he gives into conditions or stands up to them.  In other words, man is ultimately self-determined.  Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment”…  Thus the meaning of life for Frankl, expresses itself from man’s innate capacity for self-determination.  What is not made clear from Frankl’s above perception or perhaps it was implied, is where the capacity for self-determination originates?  The answer is, it originates from our self-awareness. 

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We Know

We know ourselves. This has come to me recently in a conscious way.

We all know when something isn’t right within us and amongst us. What we do with this is where we need to place our attention. What do I mean by this? For many of us, when we know something isn’t right— what do we do about this? Do we try to understand what it is? Or do we push it away and put our energy to functioning as if all is well?

We also know when something is right with us. Most of us would like if others noticed this. Again, what we do with this is where we need to focus our attention.

Is it enough that we know this? Is it enough that we truly do know ourselves? Or do we believe we need the other? Do we not trust ourselves to know who we are?

If we did, imagine what that might mean?

Perhaps we do not know because from right out of the womb, even before, when our parents paint our rooms blue or pink, we are told who we are, what we will like. In school we are taught what “they” think we don’t know and need to know, and on and on it goes.

But we know. We know ourselves more than anyone else can know. And this is the key to our unfolding, our conscious knowing of who we truly are and also, who we are not.