the meaning of life
I borrowed a copy of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning from friends the other day. A slim in size but substantial in wisdom volume. Apparently it has sold over nine million copies but I had never come across Frankl before, nor indeed the ‘third school of psychology’ which he founded. Frankl, who died in 1997 aged 92 was a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau and learnt from his experiences a great deal about overcoming suffering, without resorting automatically to some other worldly manifestation of, e.g. religious belief. His approach, which he called Logotherapy has at its core an existential form of positivism (apologies to any terminological purists here). Meaning, and the value of having meaning are not prescribed by rote but are to be found in the will to meaning, to identify it in oneself. It would be as valid to find that meaning in yearning for a season ticket to Elland Road as it would be to wish for the everlasting life (for some of course this might amount to the same thing). Frankl does not set out a hierarchy of meaning, wherein some things are deemed more important than others. The search for The (capital ‘T’) meaning of life cannot be a search for a single, ‘correct’ answer. His approach is therefore humanist and tolerant and acknowledges that religion can be as valid a response as any other to the human need to fill the existentialist vacuum. Whether any religion is ‘correct’ is perhaps as useful a query as to whether Leeds United is more or less meaningful than Manchester United. Not that such an issue is without contention amongst rival fans of course.
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