Wednesday, October 18, 2006

People Who Never Live and Who Live to Suffer


We grow up surrounded by fictional characters. Boys have GI Joe, Superman, Ultraman and a host of other hyphenated men characters while girls play with Barbie dolls and the like. Then there are the Disney cartoon and comic book characters who are a constant source of amusement. Now Messrs. Lazar, Karlan, and Salter have written The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived, listing their nominees with strong arguments for each. You may disagree, subconsciously supplanting some of them with your very own. To each his/her own. I have yet to read the book, so this pleasant surprise is made in anticipation.

I came across a big word today, one that I’ve encountered before but have not bothered to look it up. It’s existentialism. The online dictionary defines it as “a 20th-century philosophical movement; assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for what they make of themselves”. To my mind, freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin; we cannot have one without the other.

However, Victor E. Frankl, in his book entitled Man's Search for Meaning, has an interpretation that is somewhat akin to Buddhist teaching: “to live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.” This certainly rings true, albeit tinged with a tad of sorrow that life tends to throw at us. However, Mr. Frankl turns it around to admonish that we “say yes to life”. The longer version taken from his book is more revealing, explicit and easy to relate that makes it my pleasant find of the day:

Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as an unintended side-effect of one’ personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

Happiness cannot be pursued, it must ensue.” Think about it.

2 comments:

CY said...

But if you pursue happiness, i.e., you do things or put things into action to push you in that direction (such as saving money or paying off your debt), then happiness will ensue (such as your debt getting paid off!). Eventually.

Say Lee said...

That's called goal setting. Happiness would ensue from realizing one's goals.

This morning I read in a local daily that happiness has been shown to be 50% based on genetics, i.e. a happy or otherwise disposition is determined at birth. And the environment and nurturing take care of the rest. So we need to nurture and let these so-called happy genes come to the fore. I think I'll blog about that later. Thanks for the lead.