It is always nice for an individual to reckon that he has lived a meaningful and purposeful life. This is a statement that most of hope to qualify at one point in our lives, whether presently or later. However, in looking forward to this moment, it is important t comprehend what it entails to live a meaningful and purposeful life. It has been argued that this answer is as varied as the number of people you seek answers from. Nonetheless, this has not stopped philosophers, political leaders and even religious leaders from pondering on the matter. Over the ages, it has been argued that lasting happiness not only requires one to focus on oneself but also focus on issues that lie outside of an individual. The rationale is that this gives purpose in one’s life. Different things give meaning to people’s life (Ford 59).
For some, religious beliefs add value to their life. For others, a positive contribution to the society in which they live, their children’s future, the well-being of others, literature, art and the larger world offers meaning in their lives. Studies by scientists have found that one’s well being is greatly enhance when one takes part in and contributes to something longer-lasting and larger than the individual self. Is a study involving ten thousand Hungarians, lead researchers in the study found a strong relationship between a strong sense of well-being and a strong feeling of meaning in one’s life. Through this research, it was inferred that emotional and physical well-being was linked to life meaning. In my view, life has meaning when in addition to achieving the goals I set out in life, my actions help create a greater good for the members of my society through positive influence.
The holocaust is a very significant historical happening. Many people have different responses to the happenings in the holocaust. In her writings, Anne Frank gave a firsthand encounter of the experiences in the concentration camps. The writings explain her development and relationship. Anne Frank talks of the meaning or real freedom in her life and the satisfaction it brings. For Anne Frank, real freedom entails the capacity to choose attitude, irrespective of whether one is undergoing challenging situations or being subjected to suffering. It is important to note that a god part of her life was spent in concentration camps. While she did not enjoy physical freedom, her life did not entirely lack meaning as a result of this.
Freedom of the mind gave her life satisfaction in the wake of failing physical freedom. Real freedom entails freedom from the obligation of endless and constant thought. When one is denied physical freedom, the psychological torture involved is very debilitating. It goes to deny a quality life for those victimized. This is the situation for those contained in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany prior to the holocaust. Mental freedom has been glorified as an important factor influencing the quality of life one leads. In arguing for this stance, through mental freedom, one is able to forge through the path to one’s dreams. However, the importance of the collaboration between physical freedom and mental freedom in the creation of a meaningful life cannot be denied or underscored more.
Nonetheless, given certain circumstances, the absence of one does not render the other obsolete. In the face of enslavement in the concentration camps, Anne Frank found a way to turn the lack of physical freedom around by tapping into the abounding freedom of the mind to write very inspiring literature. This in her words gave her meaning in life. The fact that she touched the lives of many people through her literature even though she was handicapped by the conditions in the concentration camps gave her meaning and purpose in life. These views are different from those of other philosophers. For instance, Levinas does not recognize the suffering that Jews endured while they were held in the concentration camps as a part of human life (Mayama 56). The views of these two authors are antagonistic.
While Frank sees suffering as a medium through which one finds a deeper meaning in the lives they lead, Levinas sees the holocaust as atrocities perpetrated on human beings that the Nazi rulers for which Nazi rulers ought to be held responsible. Both their arguments have merit. Although, one has to be a positivist to see the inferences made by Anne Frank. It can also be said that Levinas is blinded by the anger for human suffering to see into the positive things that Frank made of the suffering. This is not to negate the atrocities that were committed against the Jews by the Nazi rulers. However, living under the abject conditions that Anne Frank lived in, an undergoing the kind of suffering that the Jews underwent, she found meaning in not allowing her constrained circumstances to deny her the opportunity of having a greater impact in the society (Buber 32).
In line with the sentiments of Anne Frank free thinking is very important to finding meaning and purpose in one’s life. This is very relevant to my concept of a meaningful and purposeful life where achievement of goals that meet the greater good of the society is exemplified. Free thinking is important because it enable the generation of ideas that are sensitive to the prevailing circumstances, economically and socially. Karl Marx, a renowned philosopher also identified with the need for free thinking in the search for meaning and purpose in one’s life. This was inspired by the conditions that were prevailing in his time. The nobility had so much influence on the society that their opinions shaped the happenings, actions and inactions of members of the society. Karl Marx encouraged people to liberate their thoughts from the influence of the nobility and think freely. He though that his way, people would find more meaning in their life.
In order to live a purposeful and meaningful life, it is important to understand the dynamics of human existence. This is a question that everyone hopes to answer at one point in their life. According to professor Ambrosio, every human being shares one commonality. The common question that every human being seeks to know the meaning of life despite the differences that might occur. The lingering question is a crucial dynamic of the actual existence of human beings. In order to understand the meaning in one’s life, it is important to comprehend the path of human existence. For this, delving into the realm of philosophy, religion and the authentic meaning of life is not only important but also crucial.
Here versus saint is a debate that has been held in the philosophical realms. In the hero’s universe, uncongenial forces of fate and necessity that fall beyond the desires of human being give life meaning. The realization of the hero involves mastery and self-fulfillment manifested through the achievement of things. Through this unyielding force, a hero seeks to fulfill that which is fatefully in his path wholesomely and perfectly by weathering every impediment and overcoming all obstacles. On the other hand, the saint compares oneself to others thereby asserting a peculiar sense of life. In drawing this comparison, the saint bases it on divine and humanity and a covenant bond of responsibility and care. The aim of this comparison is love. While love is the basis for the saint, the hero is driven by fulfilling the desires of his life (Royce, John & Ignas 63).
As such, people find meaning in their lives by ascribing to heroic beings or saintly beings in the past. For instance, the actions of Jesus are based in love for humanity. By following in the ways of Jesus, people find meaning by mimicking his actions and the philosophies behind them. Since he preached love for others, saints are accommodating and find meaning in teaching these philosophies to those who are ignorant. On the other hand, those who ascribe to heroes are inspired by the achievements and triumphs of heroes to make better beings out of themselves. The perseverance shown by the heroes in pursuit of their desires is the fodder that those who ascribe to this philosophy feed off in the path to achieving their dreams.
The philosophical underpinnings advanced by professor Ambrosio are very legitimate. The hero and saint revelations act as motivations for individuals in their path to finding meaning in life. Everyone needs a role model in life. Some share physical proximity with their role models and often share time discussing various issues in life. This way, the role models offer guidance by relating with them. Other people may not necessarily share physical proximity with their role models. Nonetheless, they get guidance by deriving life lessons from the actions of the heroes or role models by reading their literature. For instance, studying the philosophical underpinnings of ancient philosophers like Socrates and Plato, people can use the knowledge obtained to guide their decisions in life (Meltzer & Jaś Elsner 13).
The archetypes of sainthood and heroism as seen in their role models help the people involved acclimatize to the logic they find in their own persona responsibilities. Out of conscious thought, individuals may not opt to adopt the saintly or heroic personalities as depicted by their role models. However, people still find bits of the saintly or heroic personalities littered in their lives. To some extent, people find themselves practicing bits or either saintly or heroic personalities from time to time depending on the prevailing circumstances. A good illustration of this assertion is religion and religious beliefs. The perspectives underscored in Christianity and Islamic teachings are those of heroism and sainthood. Through the practice of either Islam or Christianity, individuals ultimately practice the hero-saint archetypes. By seeking answers to the meaning of life by exploring the perspectives of saint and hero, individuals are assured that their questions will be eventually answered through the course of their lives.
These philosophical underpinnings are very significant to my idea of a meaningful and purposeful life. Firstly, the saint and hero archetypes embody the actions of characters that left an indelible mark on the society. Whether these characters are individuals like Socrates and Plato or institutions like Christianity or Islam, their effect on their followers is undisputed. For many years, the saint and hero archetypes have molded the lives of a myriad of people. Through the motivation that they inspire in people, they are able to meet their dreams and fulfill the desires they hold. More often than not, these achieved dreams do not exclusively impact the lives of those who achieve them. Their achieved dreams and desires also influence the society in positive ways. This touches the lives of many thereby underscoring the concept of a meaningful and purposeful life.
However, there is a downside to the philosophy of the archetypes of saint and heroes. Our definitions of hero depend on the place from which we need guidance. Different people have different heroes depending on their prevailing circumstances. More precisely, an individual can have many heroes depending on the situations one is undergoing. One could use the personalities of heroes to perpetrate actions that are in contravention of the laws of the land. For instance, some individuals see the Robin Hood character as a hero. The model of social justice for this character was to steal from the rich in the United Kingdom and consequently distribute is to poor.
In the contemporary society, this amounts to a felony which is punishable by law. Mimicking these actions literary would be in contravention of the law and would land the said person in jail. As such it is important to mention that this would not amount to leaving life with meaning and purpose. This is because our lives should be in line and governed by the established laws of the land, otherwise we are no more than miscreants and social misfits. My argument is that living a meaningful and purposeful life should be within the confines of established laws. This is in line with the ideals of social justice. Established laws seek to ensure that even in living a meaningful and purposeful life as guided by our logic, we do not infringe into the rights of other individuals within the society.
Without confining our means to the establishments of the law, we risk disenfranchising others in the pursuit of meaning and purpose in life. I reckon there is antagonism between these sentiments and the philosophical underpinnings of Nietzsche. This philosopher argues against culturally accepted norms and the principles that are held by the society. This philosopher argues to have no faith in reforms in the social fabric, loathes human suffrage and the parliamentary forms of government. This scholar also condemns Christian morality and argues that the society need not be governed through the application of rational principles that are made by man. In his argument, these establishments are engineered to benefit the nobility by making very many people to suffer.
The sentiments published by Nietzsche are increasingly unfounded to a great extent. In my opinions, the ills of the society do not lie in the social systems and the institutions. Additionally, reforms should not be performed on the institutions. On the contrary, any reforms aimed at improving the society should be performed in the individuals (Deleuze 25). This is because the ills in the society are perpetrated by the individuals who are tasked to manning these institutions. In the same breadth, it is the leaders who manipulate the established systems with the aim of benefiting themselves at the detriment of those who elevated them into the elective positions. The transactional and transformational forms of leadership champion for the capacity building of the subordinates and the electorate in order to enable them lead a more profitable life. The actions of these leaders can allow the citizens to find meaning and purpose in their lives (Plamenatz 46).
The discussion above has highlighted many concepts that are pertinent to finding meaning in one’s life. Freedom of mind featured prominently as a core factor. It importance is pegged on its ability to help the generation of fresh and unique ideas toward meeting the goals and objectives set out in life. These sentiments have also been highlighted by other scholars in the form of mental liberation in order to spur free thinking. Additionally, the power of saints and heroes in enabling people to find meaning and purpose in their lives has also been underscored. Heroes and saints provide the much needed motivation when individuals learn of the perseverance that heroes go through the challenges and impediments they weather in order to meet their goals. The teachings and perspectives of saints offer the required guidance for making life decisions. Important examples are religious institutions and the teachings that they preach as influenced by the archetypes progressed by their leaders. All these factors are important fr an individual who aims at finding meaning in their lives. This is because they enable people meet their goals and consequently create a greater good in the society by touching human lives positively.
Buber, M. (1996). The letters of Martin Buber: A life of dialogue. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche and Philosophy. London: Continuum. (2005).
Ford, Dennis. The Search for Meaning: A Short History. America: University of California Press, 2007.
Mayama, A. (2010). Emmanuel Levinas’ conceptual affinities with liberation theology. New York: Peter Lang.
Meltzer, Françoise, and Jaś Elsner. Saints: Faith Without Borders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.
Plamenatz, John. Karl Marx’s Philosophy of Man. Carlifonia: University of Carlifonia. 1975.
Royce, Josiah, John J. McDermott, and Ignas K. Skrupskelis. Culture, Philosophy, and Religion. New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 2005. Print.