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The Question of Meaning with Mark Matousek

Posted September 30 2014

We are pleased to bring you this excerpt from "The Question of Meaning" with Mark Matousek.  Where do we find the meaning of life?  The answer is different for everyone.  Mark Matousek takes us on the journey to understand how we can all discover the meaning of life within ourselves.

Let's talk about the question of meaning. Why is a strong sense of meaning so crucial? What do we do when our lives lack meaning? How do we find meaning in life when things overwhelm us and we can barely keep our heads up, and where does meaning actually come from?

Now, I’m going to focus on six essential tools that we can use to discover and cultivate an inspired sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Without meaning, it could be hard to face the challenges that are thrown our way and hard to weather the terrible bits, to understand ourselves, to find a reason to go on, and most of all, hard to make choices.

Now, choice is the first important tool we’re going to talk about in cultivating meaning. As Viktor Frankl wrote,”The ability to choose our way is the last of the human freedoms”.  In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Frankl describes being a prisoner of war and seeing the power of choice acted out every single day in matters of life and death.  "We, who lived in concentration camps, can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way". Now, in deepest despair, meaning was nearly as important as food in the day to day lives of these prisoners.  During his time in the camp, Frankl maintained a sense of meaning by imagining that his wife, who had been sent to another concentration camp, was alive. She wasn’t, yet this story is what helped to keep him alive, to give his existence and the prospect of a future a feeling of significance. His story about his life is the only thing that stood between Frankl and suicidal despair. Later, he would come up with a formulation that captured this wisdom; suffering, minus meaning, equals despair.

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