The Meaning of Life

“What is the meaning of life?” This is one of the biggest questions we can ask. Many great minds have tackled it. For me, the most insightful answer came from Victor Frankl, a famous Psychologist who also was a Holocaust survivor. In his influential book “Man’s Search for Meaning” he describes the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp and how he was able to survive by focusing on the few things he had left, which could not be stripped from him and that gave him meaning, such as the love for his wife (who had been separated from him, and, as he found out only later, killed).

Frankl goes on to say that we cannot answer the question "What is the meaning of life?" in general, but only at a personal level: “What is the meaning of my life?” (Click here for his book)

This is a very insightful statement that can help us all further: It tells us, don’t bother arguing about some greater meaning, instead, figure out what is of supreme importance to you, and live life based on this so that it becomes meaningful to you.

Surely, this is the only way in which we humans can actually experience meaning, at a personal level.

Further, anything that has meaning can only have meaning within a greater context. Think about how every story needs a setting: it is not just the words that are spoken that hold the meaning, but in which context these are told -- the exact same words can have different meaning in a different context. For us humans, the most immediate context is the one we live and experience in our life. Whatever meaning arises for you, only arises for you within the context of your personal life.

Clearly, your life is embedded within some greater contexts, like society, history, evolution, the cosmos, etc. And you can indeed talk about meaning with regard to these contexts, but ultimately you always argue from your own personal point-of-view. That is, you can only state your meaning.

So don’t get lost in the “meaning” of it all, just ask yourself: what is of meaning in my life, and what is the meaning of my life?

If you can figure this out, and then live by it, you will have a meaningful life—for you.

Be True! Be Happy!
Hanns-Oskar Porr

Copyright © 2009,2010 Hanns-Oskar Porr

Based on
The Steps of Essence: How to Live Life Well and Authentically.
by Hanns-Oskar Porr

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