Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Man's Search for Meaning

"We had nothing: except our ridiculous naked lives." -Viktor E. Frankl

Thank you Mr. Johnson for introducing me to Man's Search for Meaning in high school.  Over the nearly three decades since the first time I read this incredible book, I have returned to it from time to time, and it has always yielded fresh insight into human life and to the meaning of suffering.  As Woody Allen has pointed out elsewhere "to love is to suffer."*  But in our relatively affluent, civilized society, most suffering is experienced voluntarily.  There are those moments in life when one must truly suffer, and it cannot be avoided if one is to remain psychologically fit.  One of those moments is the death of someone close: a parent, a child, a lover, a very dear friend.  One must enter into these feelings boldly; feel them, and express them.  One must suffer extravagantly as one grieves.  But when we feel the same way about forgetting to set the VCR, or the fact that we haven't become rich nor famous, such suffering is unnecessary and elective.

* "To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down."

-Woody Allen, Love and Death

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