Finding the Real Meaning of Existence
Updated: Jun 1, 2020
When I read that the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, reported zero death on April 7, 2020, since January. It filled me with a sense of hope of a happy ending to this turmoil and mental tension. With the recent dark developments all over the world, we ought to look for happiness to gain the courage to march forward. Viktor Frankl coined a term ‘tragic optimism’ in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” believing that human beings can change suffering into an accomplishment, modify guilt into the motivation to become a better person and utilize the aptitude to bring value to one’s life in the times when we feel life is meaningless.
Twenty-four hours at a stretch we are fed with negative news about Covid-19 and therefore we need to reorient our frame of mind. We need to look at things from a different perspective. Despite the inevitable pain, regrets, loss, and suffering we experience we ought to look out for meaning and revolutionize our lifestyle. The move from real to virtual world shows that our lifestyle is shifting. India with its earliest lockdown has noticed a tremendous transformation in online media consumption.
There has been an increase of traffic on websites and mobile apps by 89 percent than usual in the general news category from March 23 onwards, which means many of us have started to watch news mostly to know about the pandemic and the impending situation. Websites and mobile apps on entertainment noticed 64 percent, sports observed 80 percent and online gaming saw a 51 percent increase in traffic. We consume online media more in comparison to offline social conversations because of social or physical distancing. The lockdown has forced this lifestyle upon us but that is where we ought to find meaning.
Viktor Frankl states in his book that there are three ways to uncover meaning in our existence i.e. through work, love, and suffering. The lockdown doesn’t permit most of us to work. Some of those with access to internet facility may engage in online work but those who do not have this and those engaged in manual work may find themselves lost. But there are a lot many things we need to turn our attention to when it comes to working at home. Think of the women who work all day at home, some of them even without expecting anything in return. Frankly speaking, they should be paid for the hard work they put in - waking up to prepare breakfast, different kinds of lunch and dinner. These women only get peevishness from those whom she serves. What they need are words of gratitude. They were already locked down but this time with the family. So it is time for the family to extend help to their mothers or the women of their house. Find joy in the work at home, extend your helping hand and your unified work will give relief to the women in the house and satisfaction to you too, of having done something for them.
Love can be expressed in a million ways. And love blooms when the whole family is united. A family stays united when it prays together. Prayer opens our mind, it enlivens our soul, it helps us to forgive and forget, and it makes us humble. Love can be expressed to children by parents through a kind word; love by children can be articulated by serious and active engagement in studying through different means, by playing community games at home in the presence of the family, by spending time with the elderly members of the family. Mobile applications like ‘Zoom’ and ‘Houseparty’ paved way for face-to-face group video conferencing and social networking, helping us realize that we ought to be together and share love although from afar, although the services might now be under scrutiny for laxity in user privacy. Nevertheless, Love needs to be nurtured and shared.
The lockdown has not been easy for anyone of us, mentally, spiritually, physically and socially. All of us are disturbed and suffering in some or the other way. None of us imagined that we would celebrate Easter with the help of digital media. The very thought of not attending the Eucharistic celebration during the Holy Week was depressing for most of us. But the hope that our risen Lord will work wonders still kept us going. These times, test our faith whatever religion we belong to. It helps us set our convictions right. We ought to learn to accept and bear these sufferings and there is no point in giving up. We should employ the paradoxical intention and attitudinal change technique to overcome these situations. The paradoxical intention would require us to do the exact habit or thought process we would want to avoid otherwise to overcome it and to motivate ourselves. We can amend our attitudes by positively engaging in an optimistic activity like watching an alternate perspective by Faye D’Souza in her segment called, “Good News Tonight” on Facebook.
Trying to distract ourselves from bad news or negativity is not trying to avoid the turmoil our brethren are going through but it is a way to keep ourselves optimistic and hopeful. It is a way to find purpose and meaning to our lives under the lockdown.
First Published on The Goan Everyday Newspaper