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This is Viktor Frankl
He was a neurologist and a psychiatrist he lived through the concentration camps of the Second World War
He survived starvation slave labor watched countless people die
You know what the concentration camps were we went all on it.
Anyway, during that time he had a revelation which was, this:
Humans are an animal driven by purpose, above all we strive for a sense of meaning in our lives
And if we don't get it we get extremely extremely sad and by the time I finished ranting at you today
I hope you will agree with this, too
For the longest time a good day for a human consisted of finding food, finding water, and not getting fucking eaten and even though
Hunter-gatherers probably have more free time than we do chances are the focus of their lives was to stay alive
Next, we developed a civilization and along came organized religion
I'm not shitting on religion here believe whatever you like, but whether the notorious
G.O.D does exist or not it arguably gave humans a purpose in the universe; we were special, we were loved
and we actually meant something in the grand scheme of things
Lately though things are getting a bit complicated
If you're listening to this there's a very strong chance you will never live through a war directly,
you will never experience prolonged starvation
or have to worry about getting access to clean drinking water
I say this not to guilt you
But just to point out how much has changed for lots of us
whereas before the purpose of one's life was focused around not getting dead or
Remembering to worship the God of your choice today lots of us have more time to think about life
And we still don't have an agreed sense of what we're doing here
There is a shadow in the background of modern life. It is best described as having enough food,
Hopefully having enough money to live on,
Not needing to worry about lions,
And still being sure that some vital thing is missing
And that missing thing Viktor Frankl argued is meaning.
Frankl noticed that lots of his patients had the sensation of total meaninglessness in their lives
He called this the existential vacuum
When I got my cap I asked the vet:
"What do cats need please?"
And she said: "food, water and fuzz."
I give her these things and she seems as far as I can tell pretty cool with the whole arrangement
At no point has she demanded to know the purpose of her existence or the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics
It doesn't seem that easy to satisfy humans though, because we are very very clever animals (with some exceptions)
And oh look!
It's half-past-pop-psychology o'clock
Maybe you know about Maslow's hierarchy of needs it's not accepted by everyone, but it's a pretty good rough guide
So we're fairly sure humans need basic stuff first; food, water, sleep
Then security and safety and no getting numbed by lions, yes
Then belonging and love as in family intimate relations,
Then self-esteem to be respected to be appreciated and then finally
Self-actualization or becoming that thing one actually wants to be.
Lots of humans it seems, are somewhere between here and here
Hopefully lots of us are living in relative safety, and that's grand
But the general message of 21st century life for being self actualized at least in some parts of the world is
Make-de-moneyz or buy lots of property or something and then you'll miraculously be happy and fulfilled
Well, nothing wrong with money or houses,
But it seems pretty evidential that is not enough for purpose and happiness in itself
A few recent studies hinted that having money does actually make you happier
Unless you win the lottery, interestingly
Then you're probably fucked, link below.
But there does seem to be a limit
A Princeton study a while ago suggested that above about $75,000 dollars happiness and well-being doesn't increase that much
above a certain threshold of being able to support yourself and your family
Most humans don't get too much happier above that with money alone,
So something else is required for happiness..
Happiness is one of the few things humans try to achieve for its own sake
But there's a problem with happiness
Which is the most of us seem to behave thinking well when I bought, finished, driven, built, completed X
I'll just be happy forever and nothing will ever hurt again
If you've ever tried being human you may have noticed that this is not how happiness works, ever
Usually over a long enough period of time humans revert back to their baseline hedonic setpoint their default happiness position
This is called the hedonic treadmill, and it's a fundamental shit part of the human condition
But what's interesting is that there doesn't seem to be a meaning treadmill in the same way
For example: one of the most significant life events for lots of humans will be having more humans, eventually
And parenting itself seems to start off feeling pretty cool
But gets a bit fucking stressful for about 20 years and in those 20 years even though the euphoria dies off
And many parents at times wish to eat their young the feeling of purpose does not die off
This also appears to apply to long-term relationships that work,
and professions people genuinely, actually, enjoy there may be difficult weeks or months
But overall if it's in line with what an individual actually wants, inherently
Then the thing continues to be meaningful for a long time
Possibly even for life.
Meaning seems like a far more sustainable goal than happiness
And according to what we know so far, if you have the first, the second often follows
Even in hard times
Years ago I had a shit temp job in an office
And I spent the entire time being incompetent and fantasizing about getting out and my boss who was a nice lady
Seemed genuinely happy filling in spreadsheets and playing solitaire when the big boss wasn't looking and she was very clever
So one day I asked her why she liked working there,
And she said that when she was little she used the dream about working in an office
and having a desk and going to the Coffee machine blah blah
and now she was living the dream
And I realized at that moment just how different humans' motivations can be.
If working there was in line with what she wanted to do, and she was happy doing it,
Which she was, then who the hell was I to tell her otherwise?
Unfortunately, humans are not cats and food and water and fuss just ain't gonna
Cut it most of us seem to want to be trying at something we enjoy
But the spectrum of human enjoyment is so vast
It's ridiculous, so there's not going to be some magical human science that says
"Alright you fucks, everyone eat five creme eggs a day, learn the accordion, get a job as a telephone sanitizer and then you'll find purpose in life"
It's something a lot more complicated than that
And Victor Frankl's position was that finding an individual sense of meaning is a journey the individual has to undertake alone
Sometimes you come across people who are much older than you, but a still self-centered or compulsive liars or whatever?
And it's worrying because you assumed if you just live long enough your work shed out and stuff will be fine
And here's someone who lived a long time and somehow is still an awful person
One day I was talking to a Buddhist nun about this,
And she said "well obviously, you have to try it, being wise, or you'll spend your whole life never growing,
Meaning is a jumper that you have to knit, yourself."
that seemed quite clever and quite true.
Oh ey uh..
Jumper is a sweater to those of you living in certain breakaway British territories. What what?
Where we are now might be part of a huge experiment in human history
Which is give some people miraculous technology give them education
And mars bars and VR and see if that provides them with a purpose in life
for some of them, lots of them, It doesn't seem to
The question then is "Yeah yeah, thanks for the technology and the education and everything,
But life still feels empty on some level for some of us, and what the hell do we do now, please?"
Every age has its trials; the existential vacuum might be ours,
If you take away the constant threat of death,
Purpose is given back to the individual and that's bad and that's good.
if one actually pursues some individual sense of meaning whether it be in love or work or whatever
That's grant if not an entire lifetime can be spent and many have been spent doing nothing about it
The game of life begins with you appearing on the outskirts of this huge dark forest
You ask a few people what we're all doing here, but no one, including your parents or teachers really has a clue
Now you're told that inside the forest is real life
And if you go in you'll have to do battle with all sorts of monsters like: loneliness,
Everything feeling futile, shit jobs, people being vindictive, your own limitations,
Not knowing what you inherently want, worrying about income,
Worrying about disease, The death of people close to you,
Universal human stuff, right?
But facing up to it actually saying fuck you I'm gonna learn or make or become whatever it is
We'll just refuse to die on the inside despite living in a universe that is clearly not kind and where suffering is inevitable
That might be the only way of achieving some sense of individual meaning
What's that Ray Bradbury line?
Ask no guarantees, ask for no security
that never was such an animal and if there were, it would be related to the great sloth
Which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day sleeping its life away
Just being alive in the first place is fucking ridiculous,
And it's amazing that most of us are even keeping it together, at all
It's one thing to get called into creation without being asked first,
It's an insult to injury to then be expected on top of that to work out what the hell you're doing here in the first (second) place
And I think there's a pretty good chance that Viktor Frankl and a bunch of others have already shown us how to beat that problem
Purpose seems to be personal, it comes from the inside from a sense of enjoying one's work from living around people one actually loves from
Striving to know even if only in a small human way for a short human time what we're even doing here in the first place
if not that then what the hell was the point in being here?
And if that feels like a challenge,
well that's to be expected because everyone else is playing the same game
Whether they admit it or not however much older however much more powerful they might be.
What is it with these pricks one meets at parties sometimes who claims they've got it all worked out,
Are you serious !?
Have you even noticed where you are!?
You're finally just being called into creation are you?
You're all right with just popping down the shop for an ice-cream and pretending anything makes sense.
Are you fucking kidding me!?
Oh, yeah, welcome to existence; everything is confusing, the universe is actively hostile,
And you don't even know what the conditions for your own happiness are,
Oh, by the way, you're sentient meat standing on a living spaceship (!)
Best of luck coming to terms with that one,
Like getting very confused about all this isn't entirely natural for literally everyone
Like we have anything more here than just each other,
No one knows what they're doing
Everybody shits
and really,
No one knows what they're doing
And that's alright.
That's to be expected
Knit your own meaning jumper if you can, lots of other humans did
And it seemed to work out for them
Rant over...
Good luck with your fucking lives then
What's that? it's the Prince of milf, that book I wrote ages go out as a paperback finally
You can get it on Amazon if you want
It's a story about what happens when the gods misbehave
Basically, it has a new cover a new introduction and you can actually hold it in your hands and shit