“Ever more people have today the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”
~ Viktor Frankl
The Crisis of Meaning.
The crisis of meaning. As a millennial, I have experienced the full power of it. When I was young, the list of questions about the meaning of life and the direction I must follow was endless, yet no one has ever been able to give me any sound answers. As I grew older, I realized that most people are just as lost as me. I started to notice that from my generation the crisis of meaning is rolling downhill growing like a giant snowball. More and more young people don’t know what to do with their lives and most importantly what to live for.
When I arrived in South Korea in 2013, it was a shock to discover that such a prosperous and technologically developed country is ranked 1st in the suicide rate with 36.8 suicides per 100,000 people. In 2015, South Korea reported 13,500 suicides. Let this number to sink in. On average, 37 people were ending their life every single day.
Guyana holds second place but at least it is somewhat explainable. Guyana is considered to be a third world country and its living conditions are very low. Contrarily, Koreans live well, holding 33rd place in the rankings of Quality of Life Index.
Another shock was to learn from locals that the Korean Dark Web hides a website where you could find yourself a “suicide buddy”. One Seouler told me a story of how four students connected on this site, then met in person and committed a group suicide by exhaustion burning charcoal inside a car parked on the outskirts of the city. The same group suicide trend has taken place in Japan.
What is the reason behind this pervasive loss of the reasons to live? Although poverty is a definitive factor, clearly, it is not the primary force that is pushing one’s life to the edge. There is another reason that stands behind those suicidal waves: the depletion of meaning. Which brings us to our next question.
Where does one find meaning in the meaningless world?
The answer is simple: all meanings are within.
Viktor Frankl the father of logotherapy and the author of “Say Yes to Life” and “Man’s Search for Meaning” had been dissecting a human’s soul in an attempt of finding an answer to probably the most important question of the human existence: “Why?”
In his books, Frankl describes his experience of imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps, with Auschwitz being one of them, where he spent 3 years fighting for survival. Along with other prisoners, he went through one of the most horrifying periods of human history: The Second World War. This is what he writes about the meaning:
“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”
~ Viktor Frankl
The meaning of life is hidden in the very progression of life itself. All meanings in life are to be designed independently, individually, and momentarily. This proposition is also the reason why one of the main goals of this book is to promote the mindset of taking 100% responsibility for your life and the information you saturate yourself with. It is crucial to never stop learning not for the sake of knowledge itself but for the purpose of having the sharpest tools at your disposal so that you could craft your own cunning system of meanings.
Functional life philosophy invincible to the depletion of meaning is not something that can be acquired through the acceptance of what’s served on a platter labeled as “the ultimate truth”. It can’t be spoon-fed in the form of ready-to-swallow answers. A strong life philosophy is something to be distilled upon yourself through hard work, dedication, and countless trials and tribulations. In the words of Phillip Brooks: “It is while you are patiently toiling at the little tasks of life that the meaning and shape of the great whole of life dawn on you.”
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who see an opportunity in the crisis of meaning. They try to capitalize on people’s desire to fill the inner void. Beware of the plausibility of deceivers who sell “the cure for emptiness” in an easy-to-digest, nicely wrapped package for a special price. Do not get fooled. In an absolute sense, your life is truly meaningless and will remain such unless you take your life in your own hands. No one will fill your life with meaning for you. No one was ever able to and nobody ever will. The “one-size-fits-all” blueprint for a meaningful life does not exist.
However, meaning can be found. Gravitate toward those who inspire you to embark on your own journey of self-discovery. Take what is proven to work and integrate acquired knowledge into your own life design. Ultimately, all individual searches for tools of meaning bring everyone to one path: the path of Spiritual Growth.
In the following subsection, we will take a look at a mindset that helps to better understand why it is so important to grow spiritually.
The Taste vs Solace.
Alexey Kholopov, Associate Professor, Ph.D. in Law of the St. Petersburg Law Institute of the Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, and a forensic expert has an interesting hobby: in his free time, he reads lectures on philosophy. In one of his lectures, he is talking about the direct relationship between the taste and the solace. Let me explain this powerful concept in simple language.
In short, our tastes define our solaces. Let’s look at some examples.
Stickman A is Alan. Alan is a janitor. Disclaimer: by all means, I mean no disrespect toward the job of the janitor. However, I hope you would agree with me that there are some jobs that are intellectually demanding and some are not. Alan’s job is like that.
After a working day, Alan finds his solace in watching baseball games in the bar and consuming beer with his buddies. He often drinks himself into oblivion. Alan gets pleasure in watching TV and complaining about his boss to his girlfriend.
Stickman B is Bill. He is a junior manager in a corporation. After a stressful day he goes to the gym to blow off some steam. He occasionally drinks wine on the date nights with his girlfriend.
Bill finds his solace in watching movies, fishing with his friends once in a while, and knowing that he almost saved enough money for the new car. If someone asked him, he would say that he is a normal guy with normal needs.
Stickman C is Carl. Carl is a professor of theology and a lifelong Christian. He was studying holy scriptures all his life. Carl committed himself to sobriety and living a clean life. He is a faithful family man and a father of three. In the meantime, he is running his side-business.
Carl finds his solace in reading, teaching theology to his students, writing his own book, and serving others through his side-business.
I know, these three are not my best analogies and I am sure you will be able to find better examples, maybe even among people you know, but I am trying to make a point: a man who finds his solace in philosophical literature and a deep relationship with God can never be satisfied by booze and a baseball game. In other words, there is a clear correlation between one’s tastes and the sources from which he draws consolation. This correlation can also be stated as follows.
The quality of the solace is directly proportional to the level of Intellectual and Spiritual development.
It stands to reason that having a sharp intellect alone does not guarantee high-minded sources of consolation. It is spiritual growth that is responsible for the elevation of solace. High taste has its roots in spirituality.
The touch of the divine within that we sense during meditations, the understanding of Universal Laws that we attain from reading holy books such as Bhagavad Gita, Koran, and Bible, the bliss of a ritual prayer — all these are what helps us to develop a sense of taste for spiritual, a taste that once acquired is impossible to substitute with a taste of a lower standard.
Your tastes define your impulses. Your impulses expand into actions. Your actions mature into habits. Your habits become your destiny.
That brings us to our final thesis regarding the importance of the spiritual growth.
For one who sets his mind into living a meaningful life acquiring a higher taste must be a top priority.
Reaching the desired destination point is possible only if there is clarity on the point of departure. If you want to arrive at the variation of reality in which you enjoy a life full of meaning, then where is the starting point? The answer is: you start with the vessel.
If you don’t know who you are, if your true nature remains concealed from you, how can you understand what is the purpose of your journey on Earth? Can you be effective in setting up the right goals, not to mention achieving them? You can’t. And you won’t be able to unless you place yourself at the origin of your coordinate system.
The journey to a meaningful life starts from within.
It starts with you.
I know what it is like to be a man who finds his solace in overeating, smoking, drinking, and substance abuse. Insomnia and depression. My life was miserable and shallow. But as you might know, and as I’ve learned from bitter experience: “no vessel will ride in shallow waters.”
By all means, I am still work in progress, however, my transformation was substantial enough for me to see a dramatic shift in my tastes and my solaces. The taste for self-destruction that quiets the pain of the inner hollowness and self-loathing but never brings true satisfaction has weakened to the level when it can be ignored. The taste for productive work continues to grow. Today, I am in charge of my own system of meanings.
I know that you too are on your personal journey. Your soul might be scarred in battles few know about. It is possible that you are tired of everything and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, that is true. There is no light. You won’t find it from without. The light comes from within.
If you are deeply unhappy with your life, if you go through the crisis of meanings, spiritual growth is not something you should consider, it is something you must have an insatiable hunger for.
Elevate your tastes. Raise the bar on your solaces.
And remember, you are the source of all meanings.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.