I don’t know if life has some purpose. We live in a world, as Carl Sagan said, “in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed”. Our world signifies our insignificance. In the cosmos, we are a small entity, but we are the only inhabited planet. Our world is inhabited by billions of species; the tenure of every species, however, is limited. We, the human species, are special, because we can think. Because we can think, it matters to us if life has some reason to live. Even if life has no reason, we would like to believe it has. Otherwise, it would be difficult for us to live. We are fragile. To get over our fragility we create social, political, economic and religious systems. We create science and technology to solve the problems that are created by us. We want to get connected. We want to lead a meaningful life, and to achieve that we try to fit ourselves into a network of various life forms.
Social connections are important for both happiness and meaningfulness, but their foci differ. A meaningful life makes one feel worthwhile and happy, but life could be meaningful even amidst unhappiness. Happiness is natural state of mind. One generally learns the meaning of meaningful life from the group. “Meaning is like a large map or web, gradually filled in by the cooperative work of countless generations”. Meaning is, thus, more linked to one’s cultural identity than happiness is. Although, both happiness and meaningfulness may involve interpersonal connections, they may differ in how one relates to others. Happiness is about having one’s needs satisfied. It means interpersonal involvements that benefit the self should improve happiness. Meaningfulness, on the other hand, comes from making positive contributions to other people. Meaningfulness does not always have to bank on morality or goodness. A good athlete may be a good human being, but he may not necessarily be good to his competitors. It doesn’t, however, mean evil life is acceptable if it is meaningful. Meaningfulness, howsoever meaningful it is, must not cross certain moral limits.
Viktor Frankl’s meaning of life was to help others find theirs. Frankl said that if you are destined to suffer, then it is better for you to learn how to bear this burden. No one can relieve us of our pain and suffering. No one can suffer in our place. Only ourselves may relieve us from our pains and sufferings. Frankl said that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living. We must not lose hope, howsoever extreme the situations we face. Most importantly, no one can take away our freedom, if we don’t want to lose it.
In one of the many dire situations Frankl thought of his wife. He writes, “Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.”
Every year is the year of light. I wish you lead a life that is more luminous than the sun.