Finding Meaning in Uncertain Times

Full from Video Transcript Below

So, this is my second blog and my 20th take! I’m sitting here in my garden. I decided to move out of the house as it’s quite early and I didn’t want to wake my wife with my voice. I’m quite cold, well, my head is quite cold as I’m sporting my new COVID-19 haircut. My wife had claimed she was quite good at cutting hair… oh well, anyway!

Choice & Finding Meaning in Suffering

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this crisis that we’re in. I suppose a lot of us have been thinking about it. It’s very hard for it not to be everywhere, all the time! I noticed, over the last week, as the lock-down continues, that I’ve started feeling stressed due to cabin fever, getting frustrated, irritated and annoyed. It’s been tricky to find meaning in uncertain times. I’d had a chance conversation with a neighbour as we met (from a social distance) when I was going on a walk and he said something that really struck me. He remarked:

“It’s not so much that I mind working from home, it’s the feeling that I have to do it!

– My neighbour

This was all about choice being taken away. It got me thinking about all the existentialist writers who talk a lot about choice and uncertainty and finding meaning in suffering and these concepts seem really important to me right now.

Wise Quotes from Wise People

Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, suggests that the sole purpose of human existence is to find a light in the darkness of mere being. For me, I realised, in my social distancing and in my working space that I needed to find a light in that darkness. Stanley Kubrick, the great filmmaker, said that “We need to find our own light.” And I think that for people who have and a belief system can often use this to really help and to supply light to better understand suffering and to better comprehend the challenges of life. But for those of us who don’t have these belief systems, we still need to find our own light or our spiritual connection, in some way. This is where the existentialist writers help to create a context for all this uncertainty. The wonderful Albus Dumbledore, for our Harry Potter fans, said:

” “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

– Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)

Logotherapy & Victor Frankl

So, I needed to remember to turn on the light. I also picked up Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. It’s a wonderful book. Frankl had developed a therapy called logotherapy which really is a therapy of meaning. Once we have meaning, it makes things more manageable and bearable. At the beginning of the book is a really profound account of his experiences in a concentration camp. Large members of his family died here. He survived but almost died due to Tuberculosis. It’s a really powerful and profound capture of this awful experience but he notes that we can bear the worst experiences if we have meaning, if we can find meaning for our experiences.

And according to Frankl, this is so unique for every individual. Every person has their own story and their own experience but if we can find meaning for that, it makes it more bearable. That meaning doesn’t need to a be a huge and profound meaning of life. It can be something simple. For him, it is around hope and thinking about what he might do in the future and the people that matter. He mentions some people in the book, who were in a very dark place. These people decided that they were going to survive for their loved ones on the outside. This was how they went about finding meaning in uncertain times.

My ‘Meaning’

I started thinking about meaning for me, on a much lesser level, and the challenge of finding meaning in uncertain times. For all of us, who are stuck here and we can’t go out, the choice is taken away. But we can take the choice back for ourselves also. We can say that we are choosing to do this as well. I’m deciding to not go out, to use social distancing and to stay at home because I want this virus to stop, no matter how long this takes. And if my actions help contribute to that and to flatten the curve (as they say) then my actions have a meaning. That, in turn, makes it easier to manage the stress and the cabin fever and the frustration and irritation because all of us will have it at different times but we need to reflect deeper.

Thoughts on my Own Future

I found myself thinking about my own life and the future and things that I’d like to do and the things that matter to me. I realised that the things that matter are far simpler than STUFF or MONEY and things like that. What matters are the people I love and those that I am connected to. At the weekend, we lit a light (Light in the Darkness) and we went out in to the streets with our torches and candles (like many others around the country) and there was something lovely when all the neighbours came out too. It was a lovely sense of community and connection.

An World United in this Experience

I realised that everyone was in this together. It wasn’t just about me and my experience. As a world, we were united in that experience. It was lovely and something that I hadn’t felt in the same way before. I came inside afterwards and felt, “That was special.”

So, this meandering vlog, for me, is really centred on finding meaning and finding meaning in uncertain times. And maybe finding a light in the darkness for ourselves. I’m always reminded that different concepts of mind serve to illuminate our pathways. I’m very lucky with the work that I do in that I get to read different theories and that can really help sometimes. Hopefully this has been of some use to you.

I am Not All of This; I am Part of This.

I’m finding that sitting in the garden reminds me that I am but part of this, with the birds singing and the sun in the sky. I am not all of this; I am part of this. This helps me. We will endure and we will come through this and we will have learned something. Maybe I will learn something? And maybe it’ll be about the THINGS that matter and not the STUFF. Good luck finding meaning in uncertain times!

So, thank you very much. Stay well. Stay safe, until next time – Chris