Thoughtful Thursday: leading a meaningful life

For most people in the northern hemisphere, Labour Day is the real mark of a new year. School begins, activities resume that have been in recess during the summer, and as summer starts to fade – and the glorious colours of fall make some initial overtures – we settle into a more scheduled pace of life, with great hopes for the new ‘year’ ahead. Well, of course, this year is a little different. Depending on where you live, kids may or may not be going back to the classroom. Favourite activities such as club meetings, recreational sports, and weekly card-playing may or may not be possible. I hope for your sake that some kind of return to normality is possible for you. Some vestige of normalcy at least … while you are staying safe.

We’re having a fair bit of luck that way in our neck of the woods. Earlier this week my husband went to the first fall meeting of our local Photography Club by signing onto Zoom after supper. Maybe not face to face, but it was still a welcome return to an engaging social activity. Yesterday, the reading group I belong to held its first face to face meeting since February, meeting in the social room of the apartment building of one of our members, where we could be together but socially distanced. No food, masks mandatory, and complete wipe-down of chairs, tables and everything else we’d touched when we left, but it was a very positive return. And, getting to the point of my topic today, next week the philosophy discussion group I belong to, which met by Zoom in March and April, will return to face-to-face meetings in another meeting room in town where we can be socially distanced, again wearing masks and wiping everything down and locking up when we leave. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

If you’re wondering where the meaningful life of the title comes in, the resumption of our philosophy group is the key. The topic that our group has chosen to explore this term is: how to lead a good life. And we’re starting our discussions by reading the classic book by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t), Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and neuroscientist (and Jew) who spent the war years 1942-45 as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Dachau; his wife, parents, and brother all perished in the Holocaust. He wrote this short but powerful book immediately after his liberation at the end of the war, pumping it out in a 9-day period and originally publishing it anonymously. Since being published in German in 1946 it has been republished several times, in many languages; it is considered one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

And his message throughout, while describing life in the concentration camps – with such unbelievable human suffering and cruelty – was his theme of being able to survive anything if you have meaning in your life. It had been his theory as a psychiatrist in Vienna prior to the war and remained his life’s work. His experiences in the German concentration camps only solidified what he had already determined: our primary motivation in living is not pleasure, but the discovery and pursuit of what each of us finds personally meaningful. Think about it

I expect that this term’s philosophy topic may well inspire the occasional blog post as we delve into the subject more fully. Today I offer you some early food for thought by sharing the following quotes relating to a meaningful life.

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17 Responses to Thoughtful Thursday: leading a meaningful life

  1. Thanks Jane, I need to reread Victor’s book. I first read it about 20 years ago on the advice of a niece who was undergoing chemotherapy and really enjoyed the experience.

  2. It’s been years since I’ve even seen Frankl’s name (my fault alone). Thanks for the reminder of such a powerful book. I read it in college but probably should read it again. I look forward to future posts on this theme, Jane. And congrats to you and your husband on resuming each of your favorite activities! – Marty

  3. AMWatson207 says:

    I look forward to more on this theme.

  4. Yes, I agree that a meaningful life is essential to the human spirit. That is why so many people flounder when they retire. Work provides many with a meaningful life, and they don’t know what to do when it’s gone. I would also posit that since home is no longer the center of life for many people, when the quarantine came, they didn’t know what to do and felt restless, confined. Most people spend a significant time away from their homes, and that is what they are used to doing. Not necessarily bad, just the way things are. Anyway, thought I’d add a bit to the conversation.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What a great example, Laurie. I think that does hit the nail on the head for why settling into retirement is so difficult for many people. Work does provide meaning to most of our lives over and above a paycheque and a daily routine. Then the challenge becomes finding new paths that are personally meaningful. It took me awhile, but there are lots of opportunities once you start looking.

      • Yes, for those who don’t have the urge to write or paint or some other crazy thing, there are plenty of opportunities for community involvement, which can be very satisfying and oh so good for the community.

  5. LA says:

    💗though I clearly don’t live a meaningful life…😆

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. If I didn’t know better I’d think you were fishing for compliments, LA. Well, I’ll give you one anyway! Your blogging alone gives meaning to your life, aside from every other meaningful activity or interaction your readers don’t know about. The responses you solicit from your nearly daily question are thought and heartfelt from your readers, which is a sure sign that you have touched them, along with making them think. See, meaningful without even trying! 😏

  6. Jill davies says:

    Very timely post Jane. My daughter is a Resource teacher In northern BC and is back at school after a year’s mat leave. We had a long chat last night about what she perceives as the misguided over reaction in the schools to Covid and its negative impact on kids. Reading you post would give her perspective. I haven’t read Frankl but intend to.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      What an interesting observation about your daughter’s stress and how to keep things in perspective. I can’t imagine how difficult this situation is for teachers, who want the best environment for their “kids”. But there are no perfect answers to how school districts – or any other jurisdiction – should be responding, and they have to do so within the constraints of provincial regulations. So you’re right, remembering to control what you can and accept what you cannot is a very good approach in this instance. We should all give a shoutout to our teachers. 😊

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