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Does Your Life Have Meaning?

Life is questioning you.

Young woman in field of flowers
Life is questioning you every moment: What will you do?

Many moving books have been written about the Holocaust. One that stands out for me is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, a psychiatrist and survivor of Nazi concentration camps.

Like most people, the question that hovers at the back of my mind as I read this classic is:

What would I have done if life had thrust me

into the pages of this book?

Reclining on a white leather couch with its button-activated footrest while reading words that almost make me sick, I like to think I’d have been courageous and resilient in the camp; that I would’ve shone a light of hope in the wicked darkness, my measured words an antidote to the utter despair experienced by those around me. But I’ll never know if that would have been so. I don’t know how I would have responded. I’m not sure I’m hero material.

Frankl found the best way to get through the hard, cold, grey days of imprisonment that followed one another with relentless regularity was this:

We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly.

To most of the prisoners life didn’t seem to have any meaning. But Frankl is saying that life was all around them, asking what meaning they would give it.

This startling viewpoint flips my perspective in a powerful way. It’s not up to me to question life. Life is questioning me. Life is asking me what meaning I will give it.

The world is full of stories of heroes who answered the questions life threw at them with courage, mindfulness and enthusiasm: Helen Keller (deaf-blind political activist); Mahatma Gandhi (non-violence advocator); Florence Nightingale (founder of modern nursing methods); Rosa Parks (mother of a civil rights movement). These people didn’t search for meaning in their lives. The meaning emerged moment by moment as they answered the questions life threw at them.

So you don’t need to search for meaning. Whether you're a hero, a prisoner or an ordinary person in sunhat and sandals, meaning is inextricably woven into the fabric of your everyday response to life.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you are with, life is requiring an answer from you. Your answer is the meaning.

Life is questioning you. How you live is your answer to life. Your answer is the meaning.

With love, Marlane

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