Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Point to point

The other day I talked about my existential leanings and thus the tendency to view our universe as being ultimately pointless. I also explored, albeit clumsily, how we may be predisposed to crave meaning in our lives. So much so that we invent gods to meet this need. And finally I thought about how now, more than ever, our society could be in need of a god.

To me, the fact that we could need a god is patently absurd. But Viktor Frankl was right when he observed that we're living in a world so easy and so vacuous that we no longer experience any fundamental struggle in our lifes. Concequently many of us lack purpose. Frankl argued that this is evident in boredom. (Not something I've experienced in years. I'd like to give it a go for a short while, it sounds quite relaxing).

He felt that boredom was endemic in our society, evident through mindless consumption of cheap TV, gambling and voter apathy at elections. However, much of his writing was based on his experiences of the US culture. He was much more famous than he was here in Europe. Even though he was Austrian.

Frankl was a psychiatrist, and a student of Freuds. Incidentally, he was excluded from Freuds learned circle because of his open disagreement with his theories.

Frankl proposed that Freuds 'Pleasure Principle', in which our Id demands us to take care of needs immediately and is then suppressed by our egos' misses the point.

He also argued against Adlers theories (another prominent neo-Freudian) that an individuals freedom of choice is the fundamental urge.

He summed this up rather nicely when he wrote "Actually, pleasure is not the goal of human striving but rather a by-product of the fulfilment of such striving; and 'power' is not an end but a means to an end. Thus, the 'pleasure principle' school mistakes a side effect for the goal, while the 'will to power' school mistakes a means for the end"

I find his ideas very attractive as they help me square the circle between the pointlessness of existance and the irrepressable, opposite notion, that there has to be some purpose, some meaning to it all.

I guess that our purpose should be to get our heads down and work hard to make our collective lives a little bit better, one small step at a time. We should also measure our success, not against our bank balance but against how fulfilled we feel in our work and relationships with others.

After all "being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself - be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter...The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to service, or another person to love - the more human he is...", Frankl.

So, it could be argued the needs of the individual are indivisible from the needs of society. Perhaps the root of our westernised plight is the central placement of the individual in our culture.

So why does this lift my spirit?

Well, this post is hopefully the second of many on this theme where my ideas may become clearer, to both you and I ;-) . But simply, I find the idea that our place in the universe can only be found in relation to others uplifting.

So if collectively we can have a meaning, it becomes immaterial then, that the universe dosen't care.


Anonymous said...

Are those selling self-help religious?

jamon said...

Hi Murph, I guess the religious would say that their self-help manuals are the Koran, the Bible etc.

I was meaning the snake oil merchants selling books like "100 ways to become rich and happy".

That said, I'm sure some of them would call themselves religious :-)

JV said...

Hey Scott, got your message...Vigurs is not that common so maybe we are related! Love your blog...haven't written on mine for a while but I'm constantly having thoughts I should put on there so I'm gonna start up again. Nice to meet you.

jamon said...

Hi James, Thanks for the message - great to hear from you!

I'll keep dropping by your blog and hopefully we'll stay in touch.