How Do You find Meaning?

The Today Show aired a week-long series called “Do You Believe,” and I watched the segment entitled: “Who Is God?” They interviewed a rabbi, a new-thought minister, and a christian pastor, all of whom spoke of their outreaches, and the numbers of people coming to their congregations.

Unfolding of Colors

The newest statistic is that 3 in 4 American adults believe in a higher power of some sort.  Wow, that’s a big number.  And while many of the folks around me walk a spiritual road, whether through organized religion or small congregating groups or a plethora of other paths, that large statistic still surprised me.

Because so many folks I know don’t have any sort of spiritual practice.  Which amazes me as well.

This is an odd life, no?  We’re often scrambling to find meaning, especially when negative events—from having a wreck to losing a child, and everything in between—come calling.  Life can sure throw you for a loop.

And in those rougher times especially, we wonder what the heck this is all for.

And the reason for that is, as psychiatrist Victor Frankl said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” –Man’s Search for Meaning.

So many people have lived through absolute horrors.  But I can’t imagine one more horrible than what Frankl went through.  Few of us (thank God) will lose our entire families and subsist somehow in a German concentration camp.  The best estimates for what percentage survived those camps are less than 10%.

That’s not many folks.  And of course, what Frankl found was that if you can find meaning, no matter what your circumstances, you can survive to then thrive. 

At the core of us, that’s what we seek.

Why are we here?  What’s the purpose?  What does this all mean?

Most folks (referenced by the number of American believers) seek a connection to something bigger than themselves.  Something more than the 9-5 grind.  Something that keeps them going in the face of enormous odds.  Frankl said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” 

And you don’t have to find that in whatever you believe God to be.  A psychiatrist I know said to me recently, “There is no God.”   And I have no need to argue with him.  No one ever changed another’s mind by telling him he was wrong anyhow.  One’s beliefs are just that—personal. 

In fact, I have no quibble with where or how one finds meaning, how or where one finds a higher power.  Or whether one finds purpose and meaning elsewhere.   If you go all jihad on me, then I’ll quibble.  But that’s a different issue entirely.

But what I know for true is that purpose and meaning are at the core of what makes us human—however that came to be.  That links us, forever and always.  We truly are, in the end, all in the same boat. 

And it truly is only the lack of purpose and meaning that makes any situation unbearable.

Recently a dear friend suffered two heartbreaking losses, in the same week.  Knocked her legs out from under her.  She couldn’t find her footing.  She wondered what her life was for.

We do that, no?  During those times of terrible loss . . .

And it just so happened that I need her soon.  Truly need her—not just her hands to help, but just to have her here.  Her reaction humbled me to the core: “You have just given me a purpose again.”

We are all so truly connected.  And purpose and meaning is often found in the binds of friendship.

Always reminds me of Frankl’s take on what we share that makes us human:

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” –Man’s Search for Meaning

How do you find meaning?

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