“… the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” ~Viktor E. Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning.
What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of MY life? Does my life have meaning for anyone other than me?
I read the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl about a year ago during a period of questioning. I believe it’s a book everyone should read at least once – not because it answers the “big” question, but because it changes the way we ask that question and others like it. Frankl shifts our focus to the deeper longings hidden in these questions of existence and meaning. He also gives us a new perspective from which to view ourselves and others. The idea of a fixed destiny changes and mutates under his examination.
Last week I wrote about thoughts on mortality and the personal situation that led me to those thoughts. This week, I’m happy to report that the doctors found no evidence of cancer and I am doing well. So what did I learn from my cancer scare? Some surprising things actually.
I learned that I don’t have as many regrets as I expected. There was no great need to go make amends for the past or apologize to people so I could die with things “made right” in my life. I’ve always tried to live as if today were it, which means I try to apologize and make amends as I go. Still, you always wonder if you’ve done the best you could. No one wants to be that person on their deathbed filled with a thousand regrets and tons of bitterness. The cancer scare helped me see that I’ve made right those things within my power to make right – the lingering “unfinished” things are there because they are beyond my ability to fix. Sometimes an apology and forward movement are the best one can do.
I also realized that I’m fairly happy with who I am and the experiences that make up my daily life. My primary regret was the books I haven’t written — and that was a surprising epiphany! I’m not sure if it’s because I believe my words are that important or if it’s about needing to leave some type of legacy behind. Just that I kept thinking: “Crap! I thought I’d have more time to get these things written!” The thought that my projects would never be real and see print bothered me terribly. There was a sad sense of leaving something unfinished and not completing my purpose. It was an odd but enlightening experience that brought writing back to center stage as a primary focus of my daily life. (Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what it was intended to do!)
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it. ~ Viktor E. Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning
Photo Credit: pensive by James Shepherd
- Man’s Search for Meaning (carolfreire.com)
- Human Dignity (slschroeder.com)
- A personal reflection: Finding meaning in our lives- Logotherapy (redredruby.wordpress.com)
- Search for Meaning (davesdiurnal.com)
Springtimes have needed you.
And there are stars expecting you to notice them.
From out of the past, a wave rises to meet you
the way the strains of a violin
come through an open window
just as you walk by.
~ Rainer Rilke, from the First Duino Elegy
There was a graveyard I visited regularly with my grandparents as a child. My grandmother would go tend the graves of loved ones (possibly her parents) while I picked Sweet William in small bunches and put on the graves without flowers. I loved the delicate beauty of the petals, their velvety texture and intricate patterns. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to pick them from the edges of the cemetery and place them on graves that seemed lonely and untended. A child’s belief that putting something pretty there would make it all better.
The cemetery was a beautiful and peaceful place to me (other than the painful annoyance of the little sticky burs that always found a way into the side of my sandals or down into my sock). The quiet stillness enthralled me as a child before death or graves held any real meaning. Visiting the cemetery was one of my favorite things to do.
It’s been a long time since those cemetery visits – I turn 46 tomorrow and I was not even school age back then – but I can remember what it was like when death was just another word that meant nothing in my mind and heart. A grown-up word that made people sad and nothing more. My child self living free and joyful without the understanding of mortality.
I worked as a property-sales manager for a small local cemetery from 2003 to 2005. I was responsible for all facets of the business operation – designing advertising, making product sales, solving customer issues, meeting legal requirements, overseeing burials and entombments, and maintaining good relationships with the mortuaries and their staff. I took the job expecting to be “creeped-out.” I ended up loving the place and becoming friends with the clients we served and the morticians with whom I worked.
I listened to all the personal stories of my clients and attended every funeral service on our grounds. I was a quiet presence, standing nearby at graveside or sitting in the last row of a mausoleum service, listening and watching, making sure everything was as perfect and well orchestrated as it could be. This was the respect, the care we provided to those trusting us in their final rite of passage. Honoring that trust mattered deeply to me.
Two years in the death care industry gave me a new understanding of death and dying. It also provided a glimpse of the actual job of professional body disposal carried out by morticians and cemeterians. Overall, death care is a business much like any other, but there is a level of respect and compassion present in the workers that is seldom found elsewhere.
What did I learn?
At every burial there are people crying, but their tears come for a variety of reasons – as many due to regret and self recrimination as for love and loss.
Twenty-two days ago a harsh, burning pain developed in my left shoulder and armpit. A random “share” on Facebook with pictures of example breasts showing cancer signs sent me to the internet to look up my symptoms. What I found there terrified me into a hospital visit…
I was in the E.R. five days after the first symptoms appeared with a swollen left breast, a “mass” of unknown origins, and a great deal of searing pain. The diagnosis was Mastitis of unknown origin, and I was given high strength antibiotics and a referral to a local surgeon.
Today – the infection is gone, the swelling has diminished, and the pain is much duller. I go for a mammogram and ultrasound tomorrow to start the diagnostic process. I am hopeful that it is something small and easily solved, prayerful the word cancer will not apply to me. I’d like a little more time, please, to experience this thing called life.
My first thought was that out of all the panic scenarios and insane phobias I’ve imagined in my life, out of all the ways in which I have feared dying, the thought of possible breast cancer never even crossed my mind! How like life to throw something at you from left field!
My second thought was of not wanting to leave my husband, my children, my grandchildren. Worry that I needed to teach the kids more, maybe I haven’t prepared them as well as I should have, and a myriad other things having to do with all of them being okay or not.
My third thought was the shock of realization that I might soon take my last breath, that it could end so unexpectedly, the lights go dark, and thought – emotion – feeling – sentience just STOP.
Awareness becomes the split-second adrenaline rush of panic, fight-or-flight in a state of indecision, anxiety…and then quiet. Then, thoughts of all the stupid and important things you’ll miss: McDonalds pancakes, the way a breeze feels, the way your children call you mama, sun on your skin, books on the shelves you haven’t read yet, grandbabies in your lap, poems you’ve only half-finished, snuggling beside your husband at night, the dogs always underfoot, the projects still half-done and disorganized, you and you-you-the you that is the personal I-the I that has likes and dislikes, cares, loves, needs, gives, feels…. living.
Life in all its deep complexity. The small moments and the large that make up a life….that make up your very unique and personal life.
You recognize the fallacy – you have been living all this time as if you were immortal, but you are not. Your specific time here is finite. There will be a last day, one day.
Suddenly, so many daily things become unimportant. The core relationships in your life and the core things in your personality become everything all at once.
You realize you will not miss your job only your calling. You cannot justify money as a motivator for anything that matters only the hope, safety, opportunity it may buy.
You wonder at the speed of days, how they have passed you ticking like a rush of water over rapids. You reach to capture them, slow them, but they drip through your fingers and out of your hand. ~
A poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons, and preserves their quintessences. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes all men: the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed—and the Supreme Scientist! For he attains the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone! He attains the unknown, and, if demented, he finally loses the understanding of his visions, he will at least have seen them! So what if he is destroyed in his ecstatic flight through things unheard of, unnameable: other horrible workers will come; they will begin at the horizons where the first one has fallen! ~Arthur Rimbaud
- Arthur Rimbaud, Hipster of 19th Cent. (ggbook.wordpress.com)
We are talking
on the phone, as if
old friends do
from time to time.
about truth —
and I can hear
for all you never
you should have been
let the world down.
it’s too big to notice.
the feeling – from
we are born, re-Born
in the quiet
shadows – It knows
you are busy
who you are.
- Microcosm and Macrocosm (witchesofthecraft.wordpress.com)
- Penn State as a Microcosm of Society (economicnoise.com)
- TIMOTHY CARNEY: The Real Lesson Of Solyndra. “Solyndra’s rise and fall are an important microcosm … (pajamasmedia.com)
- Solyndra: A Microcosm of Market Intervention (rogueoperator.wordpress.com)
This one whisper
of a soft morning sunrise
belongs to you. Dew on
the grass, a trembling essence,
Water rules the world
one drop at a time.
This one memory
of a cold winter sunset
belongs to you. Ice slides
across broken earth,
filling the cracks
with crystals clear.
Water rules the world
one drop at a time
this water belongs to you,
rules the world.
We are only salt, spirit, spark, water —
and we are
pouring our lives out
into everything and nothingness
one drop at a time.
~for my Sister
to yesterday opens —
creaks at the hinges.
In another time
we are sitting, playing
in burnished sand —
barely-born, fresh presence,
two toddlers, laughing
into growing, into years later
we will run
past the familiar
in search of more.
The dilapidated bridge —
the one we walked
across into freedom —
ravines of memory —
never look down
never look back
those long dusty days
were still children.
every smile we lost
every tear we cried.
It’s only water across skin,
The Red Sun
blazes some new
truth – you fill
yourself up on
its hot-wet flow.
Turn, to walk away – wise
as your skin peels, flakes
away – like ash – nothing
but extra weight, you say.
on your head singes,
turns dark blue, slips
from your scalp,
strand by strand. Nothing
but aggravation, you say.
start to tremble, puff
like popcorn, drop
away – nothing,
useless anyway, you
think. You have gained
wisdom – Everything
anyway, you think – Until
a cold voice blows by you,
moves you with a truer truth.
Nothing — it’s nothing – says
the shivering whisper
as you watch the red sun
fall dark from the sky
and the keeper of wisdom
aloud in the air,
and you melt
into ice frozen
Gleaned from Ink
~from the Collection, Odes to Plath
It is never a shock that you died.
(You announced deaths’ presence often
enough, explained your acquaintance
with his cold, familiar person.)
Not your dying, but the final distorted picture —
Isolated, alone, invisible gas, babies in the next room.
That stunning portrait shock-ripples our consciousness.
The proximity of life and death
so closely knitted together —
touching threads aligned
evenly in your created tapestry.
Your destiny was to become a great poet,
immortality gleaned from ink
flowing across a contrast-white background,
the dark-lined letters of your life
a glistening hue.
~composed September 2010.
ARTWORK CREDIT: The Scribe and the Scroll…, by Jon Gemma. Original and other artwork here.
It’s been rainy and cool here in South Carolina today. Strange weather after two weeks of sunshine and 70 degree temperatures. It will be a little cooler this week, but still in the 60’s so I’m happy.
Yes, I broke the rule and started a story with the weather, but it’s okay. This isn’t meant to be a serious post about anything – surely you figured that out by the title! No, you probably didn’t expect the title of the post to be true. Nothing is ever about nothing, right?
Okay, so maybe the post isn’t about nothing, but it is a mundane post without any intentions. Sometimes it’s just nice to write a rambling post that isn’t dressed up in the finery of purpose or deep intent.
I’ve spent the day reading numerous research papers and articles about neuroscience, memory retention factors, and the psychological and philosophical elements and theories about Bipolar disorder. These are all background study and/or sources for two research essays I’m working on. Both pieces seem timely considering the Charlie Sheen meltdown and the new medical findings in several areas of cognitive science. So, I’m putting my “serious writer” hat on and actually working on some serious writing, except for here at the blog.
Charlie Sheen, Religious Arguments, and Self-Delusion
What is up with Charlie Sheen? He’s been notorious for years now – stripper problems, drug issues, and now seriously sad and crazy behavior. I’ve always liked his acting (and ditto for Mel Gibson and his bizarre behavior). They’re very talented actors, but what is going on? I have no answers, I’m just asking…
Earlier today I was reading my Facebook page and noticed where my sister and friends from our school years ended up in a heated argument over God and religion. Okay, can we all accept that everyone has a right to their belief system without having the right to inflict it on others?
It seems like a simple agreement, a basic social courtesy to extend to others, but, considering the past two thousand years of religion-based warfare, I’m probably just expecting too much. Still, peaceful disagreement is always better than a heated argument that leaves people feeling hurt and unloved.
It was a rough week at work (sales were great, but personnel issues took center stage). I’m learning that the title Sales Manager puts a dart-board target on my back and that every disgruntled worker we terminate grabs a handful of darts on the way out. It’s no biggie in the larger scheme of things, but it’s amazing to me the level of self-delusion many people live in.
Twice now I’ve hired people as a favor to my kids, their friends, and that just doesn’t seem to work out. So, no more of that! The sad part is that these people were given an opportunity that they would never had been given otherwise.
I actually care about this situation and these people. It hurts me that it doesn’t work, that they prefer delusions to true growth. I want very much to help the less fortunate, the people who can most benefit from an opportunity, but they don’t want the opportunity as much as I want to give it to them. It is sad to watch the jealousy and venomous behavior of people that you’re trying to help end up destroying them.
Pondering an Important Question
Lately, I’ve been pondering the following question: Am I a writer selling cars or a car salesman that writes?
I have a tendency to “fall into” situations, careers, relationships. It’s a unique and quirky part of who I am. Plans are fine. I make them, of course; but life always twists and turns in some unexpected way…and…oops, there I go, falling into the next new thing!
The car business has been an accidental success. I loved it almost immediately and my tenacious determination to win kicked in. It’s been a good business for me, one in which my verbal talents serve me well. One that pays me very well.
I was a writer for many years before I was in the car business. writing is and has always been my first love. I seldom write as I once did, my output and body of work has diminished due to time constraints. I have finally taken a few vacation days this month (my first time-off in two years) and am looking forward to some extra writing time. I have several major projects I hope to complete by the end of the month.
It’s ironic to think that two years ago while in Pryor, Oklahoma I thought I would never write again. Rather, I am at a place where major, deeper works seem more likely just a short while later.
Writer’s are writer’s because of two major things:
- because they write, and
- because they see the world with a different level of perception, depth, and detail than most people around them.
A writer is always a keen observer of the people and the world he or she lives in. Even more ironic is the fact that the same observation skills are what makes a great sales person. I suppose the answer to my question could be both. After all, we all carry various names, tags, and titles through our lives. Our identity doesn’t come from a title. Our true identity comes from the various mixture of titles and intricate details of our personality combined into the whole of us. We are the sum of all that has touched us, taught us, claimed us, and identified us, We are individually wonderful in many ways. ~