Today, I want to share a secret with you. In fact, it might be the most important secret of all time. It’s been the topic of many quests, many books, many songs, many debates. The quest for this secret has been the source of a great deal of negativity, as it seems quite difficult to nail down exactly what it is. In fact, as soon as you seem to have found this secret, it once again evades you. I’m speaking, of course, about the meaning of life.
But less than 100 years ago, a brilliant hero came up with what I consider to be the answer to the meaning of life. No, I’m not speaking of “42”, though there is brilliance in that answer as well. This hero was Viktor Frankl, an Austrian Psychiatrist who faced some of the most horrific circumstances known to mankind. Frankl experienced plenty of the ups of life, plenty of the kind of heroic things many of us know and love—obtaining success in his field as a medical doctor and neurologist, of marriage and family, but that is not what he was known for now.
In 1946, Frankl released a book originally titled “A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp”. He released it anonymously, because the experiences were so difficult to write about, and was discovered to find that it quickly became his best selling book. Personally, I am not surprised—because while the book lays out in viscerally clear language the horrors he and others experienced in the concentration camps, it also lays out something else entirely. The book was retitled to reflect what it was really about: “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Victor Frankl endured more than I hope any of us have to. Not only did he have to face extreme starvation and the loss of those he loved, but he had to face his own selfishness, desire to survive, and contend with what it meant to be virtuous in those most extreme of circumstances. Here was his answer, what I consider to be the supreme answer, to what the meaning of life is.
He said it is presumptuous to ask what the meaning of life is. Rather, life asks you what the meaning of life is, and how you live is your answer.
Presumptuous. I like that word. Presumptuous to think there is some great hidden truth, some mystical mountain to climb, some long-lost meaning life will randomly show up with a gift you. As if you were not enough—as if you did not already possess everything that life requires, that meaning requires.
That is the strength of the human spirit. The strength of Viktor Frankl, to face one of the worst atrocities of all time brought on him by fellow humans. And it’s the same strength that resides inside you, hero: the strength to decide the meaning of life. Which means today, you get to decide for yourself: is the meaning of life to be courageous? To be kind? To be thoughtful, witty, balanced, resourceful, charitable, resilient, or trustworthy?
The choice is yours, hero. And we are all watching, waiting, eagerly anticipating the kind of meaningful life you will choose to live.
May the road rise up to meet you!