t does not really matter what we expect from life, but rather what Life expects from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who are being questioned by Life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.
Those transitory things which appear to us to take the meaning away from our earthly human life include not only suffering, but dying as well. However, the only real transitory aspects of life are the potentialities; and as soon as these potentialities are actualized, they are rendered realities at that very moment; they are saved and delivered into the past, wherein they are rescued and preserved from transitoriness. For, in the past, nothing is irretrievably lost but everything irrevocably stored.
The person who does not respond positively to what Life – to what God Himself requires of him – resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively, as a son of the Creator, is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessor, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with contentment and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a younger person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, in my past are not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings meaningfully suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most thankful, though these are the things which cannot inspire envy.”
I I I
(adapted and freely edited from Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl)