Sometimes I wish I knew the deeper meaning why we are here...what is the big secret of life that causes us so much angst? Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
The hunt for meaning and purpose, an explanation for why we suffer, r why people can behave so horrifically, while the pure of heart suffer, constitute what could be called existential angst.
Sometimes daily rituals, getting up, brushing one’s teeth, going to work offer little gratitude may seem devoid of real meaning. Then there are struggles to keep families together, the pain of death and suffering, the WHY of third world poverty that can leave us shrugging our shoulders wondering if there is a higher power looking out for us.
Surely, I think from time to time, there has to be more than this. This earth with all its imperfections can't possibly be all there is?
However if there is a heaven, why do we have to go through what can seem like hell on earth first. If there is a heaven, why can’t we go there first? There are countless questions I or anyone will have the answer for, but I have to believe there is a deeper purpose..that life is like an infinite crossword, and pieces are being place slowly but surely, creating a picture, and illuminating the secret that is life.
Thus as I become older, I steer away from the search for “happiness” – that temporary state of pleasure that can be stolen away in an instant! For example, the sudden death of a loved one.
Instead I am looking for meaning, something more steadfast to help me remain more consistent in pursuit of personal values to guide me throughout the ups and the downs. I can be steered along a path of greater solidarity. My value of wishing to give something back to society for for example provides a pathway I can follow, instead of following a flighty,and unpredictable path to transitory happiness, with its short-term positivity that can disappear as quick as arrive.
Perhaps I am being too harsh when discussing “happiness”. It is a positive state of being, feeling that one’s life gives pleasure. The point I guess I am trying to convey is that it can be taken away from one so quickly – through illness, death of a loved one and poverty for example.
The Jews in Germany in World War Two used to be the most successful in their country– they were intelligent and good business men. They never would have predicted the unspeakable horrors that were to befall them. Victor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning” discusses this existential angst – starved, beaten, made to slave, constantly wondering if he would be next to go to the gas chambers. He was one of the very few percent that survived. He looked for a greater meaning in his suffering, and a lot of that came from religion. I am not preaching any particular religion. However, religion often provides a source of meaning in a suffering world. Even though we may not receive any answers about why we suffer, we can have faith in a power greater than ourselves, in a life to look forward to, that one day our questions will be answered. Once again, I am not pushing religion, and believe everyone has a prerogative to their opinion.
Existential angst is increasingly common in an impersonal, mercenary, market-driven world, where values are almost a hazard. Following ethics and morals can almost place people at a risk of appearing weak, people who are easy to take advantage of.
However, it is our values that will lead us home, and help turn some of that angst into deeper meaning.