Some Thoughts on Meaning...
There will be many words now, but bear with me for a minute. In everyone’s life there is a time once or twice, when we start feeling a bit restless and uneasy, then we stop, look back, look around and ask ourselves an existential question like “what am I doing here and most importantly why… Yes, everyone went through something like that... or will eventually, I promise. Anyhow, while doing some soul digging recently, I came across a very inspirational book, “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl, and I wish to share a few thoughts.
Frankl himself is an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, founder of logotherapy, who during WW II survived 4 different concentration camps including Auschwitz. In “Man’s search for meaning” he talks about his experiences in the camps, but he tells his story from an unexpectedly unusual angle. He is not trying to demonstrate horrors of the camp life that lay beyond inhumanity, but in contrast he says that a human may remain humane and capable of love, compassion, kindness no matter what circumstances life throws on him. A man may always see the beauty of the world if his heart is open.
He writes: “One evening, when we were already resting on the floor of our hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisoner rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sinister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steel blue to blood red… Then, after minutes of moving silence, one prisoner said to another, ‘How beautiful the world could be!’” Just think about it for a second – if a human is capable of seeing and feeling beauty so sharply even in those horrific circumstances, then every one of us has a tremendous potential for goodness inside. We just do not always choose to utilize it. One of Frankl’s main points is that “everything may be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances…”
Suffering in general is unavoidable in our life – not as extreme as being a prisoner in a concentration camp, but I am sure we all have our share of bad experiences. Finding meaning and learning lessons from them is the key for refining the soul and moving forward. Frankl cites Nietzsche’s words “He who has why to live for can bear with almost any how”. Now I’m getting to the meaning itself. Frankl’s philosophy of finding meaning in life groves with my soul better than Freud’s finding pleasures.
Meaning of life is very different for every one of us. Furthermore, it is different for us in every given time frame. We do not find the meaning of LIFE as a whole, but rather we find the meaning of each situation life puts us into and eventually we see a big picture and go like “oh, that was it all about!..”
Every time, when something happens to us, we have a choice – pass by and forget or open eyes, ears and heart and… learn. Trying to forget negative experiences as soon as possible is in human nature and it seems to be a coping mechanism preserving us from neurosis. But, as my grandfather used to say, “there is no such thing as useless experience or useless knowledge”… Learning from our failures may be even more valuable than learning from successes.
Back to Frankl’s theory – “it’s not about what we expect from life, but about what life expects from us”.
Another thing is that we constantly interact with other people, impacting them and letting them impact us. Each such interaction affects the meaning of the situation for all participating parties. Knowing that, we have to be cautious and responsible in actions that affect the lives of others. So, my very personal belief is that giving – time, attention, love, energy – is much more fulfilling than receiving, and it opens the door to spiritual growth and finding meaning.
That is all from me for now. Hope I made sense Thank you to those who were able to read the whole thing – somehow it didn't come out shorter.!
The Romance That Lasted
She knew him from day one of her life. He witnessed her first tiny sip of air followed by a desperate cry of an overwhelmed soul, who’s universe expanded from a safe and quiet darkness to the whole wide world in the matter of minutes. He was there, when she took her first steps and said her first words. He was the one, who understood that she wasn’t weeping after falling off a bike because of the bleeding knee, but because of her failure to ride. He always cheered her on successes and supported her in failures.
Longer she knew him, the better she realized that he has become an inseparable part of her life and herself. She shared everything with him – the new adventure, new friendship, new passion, new disappointment. And there were such stories! No matter what happened, his love was unconditional and pure, always thoughtful and always forgiving.
She was passing through a series of romances – happy and not quite so. He was always close. She’d been falling in and out of love. He was there to listen and never to tell anyone else. She was young and careless. He was accepting her in any state… He accepted her genuinely happy, with the heart flying out of her chest; accepted her completely lost in a darkness with the mood swings ranging from the hysterical joy to the darkest unwillingness to move forward; accepted her all confused, with the taste of cigarettes, alcohol and a previous night in her mouth… He never judged, never asked questions. He waited patiently for her to come to him and spilled her soul out.
She believed with all her heart that they will be together forever. Every time she’s been going away, she would miss him in a matter of days and would desperately wait for the moment of coming back. She could not imagine herself living somewhere far from him.
And then they broke up…
Nо, there was no dramatic event. She just started to feel suffocated around him. She was in a bad place in her life and she felt that he reminded her how broken she was. Their relationship was scratched beyond recognition and she didn’t want to see or feel it anymore.
Then she left.
She run away as far as she could. She started her new life without looking back and promised herself to grow happy again. And it worked. Cutting nearly all ties with her past made her able to see the horizon, be able to accept herself for what she was, and to treasure every day in her new life.
Many years have passed and she started to think about him again with a growing tenderness. One day she took a deep breath and returned to meet him and to make peace with him… and with herself. And they forgive each other…
She walked along the well-known streets breathing in a usual humidity while he was curling her hair with a drizzle, making everlasting grayness so appealing and comforting. She walked along the embankments, feeling the cold stone with her fingers while he was hugging the river with his bridges, showing off his eternal beauty. She was happily sad and fully complete again. It wasn’t another romance, but it was true love.
Love between her and her Saint-Petersburg.
I will tell you the whole story from the beginning another day…
Someone asked me a question “What inspires you?”
It seems to be simple, but it is not. It made me think… a lot. What inspires me to do what? To work? To paint? To take pictures? To write? To be a better person? To get every morning out of bed?
Let’s start with what inspiration means???
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary inspiration is:
a) divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b) the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c) the act of influencing or suggesting opinions”
According to our beloved Wikipedia, inspiration is “unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavor”. That’s probably closer to what I thought of as inspiration. Anyway, the concept apparently originated from Hellenism and Hebraism, and many great minds have been thinking about it.
For me inspiration is an internal force, like a large burning fire ball inside of my chest that needs to come out in any creative form – writing, painting, photography… It is impossible to fight it, I just have to let it go. It is an extremely strong, but creative, not destructive force.
Something external may trigger this force to start growing, tickling, and eventually to grow big and burst. But maybe something inside increases susceptibility to these external stimuli?..
Believe it or not, but uneasy times, uncertainty, life crossroads, heart throbbing, all make a soul more inspired by a… new moon, sunset, sunrise, full moon… you name it.
And love of course! For me love is the most inspirational force that could be. Do you remember being first in love and that feeling that if you jump a bit, you are going to fly? Love inspires humans to be humane. Many masterpieces have been regurgitated throughout centuries under the influence of love. It doesn’t matter whether love is new or long settled as long as one carries it in the soul and allows it to thrive. Love always finds ways to wake up the heart and inspire...
What is it that inspires you, my friends?