The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Lifeby Reverend Pat Zogar

Meaning of Life




After studying the life and work of Viktor Frankl , I have been thinking a great deal about that really big question that always comes to mind when we are doing personal work of any depth:


Is there meaning and Purpose and meaning of life???

What is the meaning of Life? What is the purpose of My Life?


see SLIDE # 2 – Mark Twain Quote. So it’s important to find out why we’re here

 So I spent a fair amount of time on Google, looking up The meaning of life and I find that almost always, people investigating this question use “Meaning” and “Purpose” interchangeably.

 So, being something of a logophile, I read the dictionary quite a bit and I looked up Purpose and Meaning

 Meaning is “the idea that is expressed or wanting to be expressed” and that can be in words, signs, art

 And purpose is “aim, intention, goal”

 There’s another two words that are often interlinked when we talk about our vision and mission statement.

 A mission is a task that one is given to do

 Vision is foresight – the capacity to envisage and plan accordingly


 So while a Mission might be something that is assigned to us, a Vision is something that we assign ourselves. So our Mission might be to teach Unity principles while our Vision is our Just 4 Kids building.

 Similarly, while a purpose might be something that is assigned to us, a meaning is something that we assign ourselves.

 see SLIDE #5

Pablo Picasso is often quoted as saying that “Your meaning in life is to find your gift. Your purpose is to give it away.” I don’t think I agree. I think all of that is purpose. I think, with Viktor Frankl that “The meaning of Life is to give Life meaning.”

 see SLIDE #6

 He said: “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” 

 The frustration of the existential need for meaningful goals will give rise to aggression, addiction, depression and suicidality, and it may engender or increase psychosomatic maladies and neurotic disorders. 

 Addiction is the need to fill an emptiness, a not-enoughness. It is the lack of meaning and meaningful goals. Most addicts also have some degree of mental illness

 see SLIDE #7

 “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

 We always have choice: whether to fight back, whether to be kind, whether to understand, whether to overcome our pain or be limited by it

 So this is the ground of being from which Viktor Frankl developed his Logotherapy

 The basic principles of logotherapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life. (GIVE MEANING)
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

“We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways

se  SLIDE #8

: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed;

(2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and

(3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances

 When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.

 Gandhi – be the change. We are the only thing we can change.

 More advice from Viktor Frankl

 “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself ….. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” 

 Have you not found that to be true? When have you been the happiest? In service.

“Ironically enough, in the same way that fear brings to pass what one is afraid of, likewise a forced intention makes impossible what one forcibly wishes… Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.”

Why? Because a forced intention is like a negative affirmation. Context/content. Change from “I want to be happy” to “I want to be of service”

 “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” 

 A student of Frankl, fellow named Taylor says, “I believe the meaning of life is to use the culmination of everything that happens to you in order to discover what is true to you. The meaning of Life is from within us, it is not bestowed from without and it far exceeds in both its beauty and permanence, any heaven of which men have ever dreamed or yearned for.”

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”  ― Viktor E. Frankl

 We, as free and responsible humans are called upon to bring forth the best in ourselves and in the world, by finding the meaning of the moment in each and every situation. This may be different for each of us. There is no one general meaning of life. Rather, we must all be open and flexible to enable ourselves to shape our day-to-day lives in a meaningful manner. 

 see SLIDE #9

A group of scientists questioned whether an ape which was being used to develop a poliomyelitis serum, and for this reason punctured again and again, would ever be able to grasp the meaning of its suffering. Unanimously, the group replied that of course it would not; with its limited intelligence, it could not enter into the world of man, the only world in which the meaning of its suffering would be understandable.


 Then let us ask the question ‘And what about man? Are we sure that the human world is as far as evolution goes? Or has come? Is it not conceivable that there is still another dimension, a world beyond our world; a world in which we, like the ape, might be capable of understanding the meaning of our suffering? 

 see SLIDE #11

 A Jewish writer named Scheinerman offers 7 purposes for life

1. THE WORLD: A purpose of life is tikkun olam (the repair of the world)  This includes human rights, ending poverty, stopping violence, ending human trafficking, and much more.

2. COMMUNITY: A purpose of life is to engage in productive and meaningful work that advances community and culture. We are commanded to stop and rest on Shabbat, but we often fail to remember that the very same verse instructs us to workfor six days each week. Productive and meaningful work – whether paid or volunteer – gives our lives purpose

 3. FAMILY: A purpose of life is to participate in the nurturance of the next generation. The next generation is a gift we give the world. Whether we give birth to our own children, adopt children, or contribute our time and effort to the needs of the next generation.

  1. HAPPINESS and PLEASURE: A purpose of life is to enjoy the blessings of our lives. When we die and stand before the Throne in Heaven, the Rabbis taught, we will have to account for the pleasures we were permitted but did not enjoy in this world. We live in a world filled with wonder and possibility. God’s agenda for us includes joy, pleasure, and happiness.
  1. LOVE: A purpose of life is to forge loving relationships. When we enter into loving relationships, we establish a bond of love, support, healing, encouragement & inspir-ation that flows in both directions. Our love gives another a sense of purpose, as their love does the same for us.
  1. SELF: A purpose of life is for each of us to realize our full potential. Our job is to become who were meant to be. Refer to Gabor Mate film
  1. GOD: A purpose of life is engagement with God. For some this means obedience to what they understand to be God’s requirements. For others, this means discovering the God within and beyond (immanent and transcendent) who animates existence.

And I add that all of these must be done within a framework of community.

 What is the purpose of one leaf!? One ant?

 “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.” C. Robin

 What is the purpose of You? What is the meaning of Life for You? I offer this sentiment (LAST SLIDE) and invite you to take a moment to personalize in your mind, what that channel and that expression might look like in your Life.

 see Affirmation Slide