Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Life… (cont.)

Posted in life, musings by Aditya Moorthy on December 23, 2009

I posted the link to my previous post on facebook and I received the following comment:

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

Dutifully, I googled Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning. I have linked them to save you some time to search. After reading through that and also mulling over the statement above for a while, I re-read it many times for two reasons – one, as to what exactly the author is trying to say and two, why was the comment posted as a response to my post. Anti-climax; I am still trying to figure out the answer for both the points. But, it did get my thoughts to run along other paths, which I thought I’ll write them up as a continuation to my previous post.

The author summarises that we have the onus to determine what our life is supposed to mean by being responsible rather than seek it as a external purpose that we collect (or realise) and apply it on our lives. Which makes sense if we look at the meaning of life from an individual’s point of view – a point of view that is taken by most people when they lack purpose due to an externally imposed circumstance like adversity. Part of my reason for the previous post is taken not from an individualistic view but rather at an existential level as to why evolution provided reason to humankind and is there a purpose behind it. Of course, I realise now that it probably did not come across as clearly as it should have. But as I said before, the comment put me through another path of thinking about the meaning of life from one’s life’s perspective.

The pondering of this question, in most cases, arises when the environment imposes an adverse situation on us. This is not to say that during happy occasions we don’t think about these questions, but more often then not, we are busy being happy that we let little such philosophical questions arise in our minds, lest we lose the moment of happiness we possess. That brings me to one of the key root causes of these thoughts – adversity. Now, adversity has many a forms that you could write a thesis on them but I am particularly intrigued by one element – pain. Pain as in mental agony and not anything physical. Pain that’s caused because of the loss of a dear one, defeat in a cause etc. Let’s narrow this down even more and try to focus on pain that is caused solely because of a situation where you don’t have anything external to blame it on. To quickly draw a contrast to the book by Viktor Frankl (note: I’ve not read the book and my brief knowledge comes from a quick glance at Wikipedia), he talks about the state of mind that exists when one is in a concentration camp and how do deal with such a situation. We need to note here that this adversity and pain is caused externally by a force that you don’t and can’t control. What I am referring to is a situation, where you seem to be the only one that could potentially be ‘blamed’ for the pain that’s causing you.

I think mind here takes an interesting form. Speaking from personal experiences, it first desperately seeks something external to put the blame on. Not finding any, one starts to introspect to find what could have caused the situation. Many a times you realise that the one suffering is pretty much the cause of it as well. Like failing in an examination simply because one did not prepare well for the same. But on some occasions, you actually don’t find yourself to be responsible as well for the situation causing the pain. Or let’s say, the degree of your responsibility it not high enough for you to take the full blame. Then you face a roadblock where you are unsure what to do next. You ponder more, examine the situation with multi-various lenses, simulate the incident in different forms and from different perspectives but still the answer eludes. If the degree of pain being suffered is all encompassing you then it leads to a state of paralysis, where you don’t function in the way you normally do. Then the metaphysical questions are raised as to the purpose of life. The interesting conundrum is that at a holistic level you know you need to take responsibility for life but are paralysed by an event that prevents you from taking the next step of being responsible. You are still bemused by the situation which seems to have no form.

We all come across such incidents in our lives and we get through it somehow – fading memory being one of them. But some leave a lasting impression on you that keeps coming back like a boomerang every now and then to haunt. What do we do under such circumstances – many seek religious help, some seek medical etc but these are safe deposit boxes that temporarily hold on to your issue giving you the illusion that it has been resolved. But depending on how intensive the issue is, it always comes back.

I do not know the answer to deal with them and I have my own demons to fight but I see a clear purpose in raising a metaphysical question here and follow the path of seeking the answer. The reason I say this is not because, I need an excuse to stare at a blank wall in the premise of thinking but rather that this approach could potentially put us on a path of dissecting the problem in a methodical way and peel the skin of the onion, one at a time. In the end, will it help tide over that situation and give you lasting peace… I don’t know. But you could potentially peel the last bit of skin and realise that there is nothing left anymore to peel. The sense of nothingness in everything could help you deal with it. Maybe…

Peace.

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One Response

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  1. Scoobs said, on December 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Nice write-up but sometimes it is better to not ask any questions for the fear of uncovering the answer 🙂 It is like ‘pandora’s box’ – if you open it, you are in trouble, but only if it even exists in the first place.

    Summary of what I am trying to say – the answer is what you want it or believe it to be. For perhaps everything in life…


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