The search for meaning in our life is important. We live short lives compared to mountains and our knowledge of the universe, no matter what we think, is small. It is a difficult undertaking for people of very small brains, in Pooh talk, that we are. That many of us don’t undertake this task is seen by our short term view of life – like the companies who only consider one quarter. For them everything else is just too hard.
But this task is what you use the tools of clarity for; this task is the great open ended problem that has only personal answers. The universal ones give little motivation and little comfort in difficult times.
This importance shows up for most of us when a dear one dies. One month ago one of my two best friends died. It was quite sudden. Three weeks before he died I received a long email that began,”an abbreviated update, best read while sitting down.” He described the suddenness of losing the ability to walk and the diagnostic process he was undergoing. We talked by email several times and one week before he died he arranged a conference call to help me out with a job I was on.
He was an amazing person. He was a good scientist and he cared deeply about his friends and family. When difficult decisions needed to be made he made them with full consideration of the people involved. He was impatient with politics but knew how to cut through them to get things done. When important stuff was being done his ego wasn’t any where to be found. Back at the end of 2013 when my consulting business was very slow he arranged a very nice contract for me that helped us both. He did this with all the people he thought well of, trying to help out as a matter of course. He always cared.
It is in times like these that inevitably we ask, “Why?” “Why him and why now?” Viktor Frankl explored this question in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He was in the Holocaust and asked himself, “why did some survive and others die there?” The answer to this isn’t simple but a great start is that the ones who survived derived meaning from the difficult events they were suffering through. This means that it is personal. It depends on your beliefs and the meaning you give to the events.
As I said this is a tough enterprise that takes more than a few minutes to resolve. The methods of clarity give you a start on this. What is your will about the situation and what is your desired outcome? What beliefs do you need to cultivate to get your desired outcome? What should you expect, moment to moment, to get your desired outcome? Finally what and how do you love to get there?
These questions are the questions you use to understand yourself and in an essential way create yourself. Using them on a regular basis for simple problems make them easier to use in times of great personal stress. Next time I’ll share some of my answers to these questions.
My friend was a great photographer. He especially liked taking spectacular photographs of sunrises and sunsets. Here is one of the last photographs he sent me from his place on Maui that I share with you. His love of beauty and his joy in sharing it with others is a measure of the man.