Week One: Your Meaning to Life

July 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

How Beautiful the World Can Be!

Thank you for being here! I apologize for the delay in take off.  Today we embark on our fourteen week journey toward a higher understanding of connectedness and compassion. If you’re just tuning in, it’s best you reel back to last weeks post and catch up following. For those ready to rock, let’s shove this ship off the beach! While we push, I am going to again preface that this is a personal attempt to craft a practice out of the teachings of a few wise and modern teachers, whose wisdom is the sea we will together work to navigate. We are students together, and thus your input is encouraged, sharing with others is spectacular, and you have only two jobs. One is to go out in the world and ACT on what you are inspired to ACT on. And Two, you’ve got to play your part for our experiment to succeed; you’ve got to contribute to the collective push. At least $1; $14 total for the three and a half months. It is by this incremental sacrifice that we will together change the course of another’s life, and the depth to which we change it rests entirely on your generosity and willingness to make action of a wish. Click the Fourteen Weeks button on the sidebar, contribute to a better world, and we’ll set sail!

Three sections ahead: The Art of Opening. Chew Lovingly. Grow Baby Grow!


In the way we open our mouth to eat and open the Earth to plant new life, we must open our heart and our mind in its entirety to receive new wisdoms. Take a minute to close your eyes and visualize this opening. Stay here for a bit and breathe in the calm, peace of it.

We’ll start this week by imagining something. It’s important you try and see it, as if it were or could be the course of your life.

1: You are young, at the beginnings of your adult life. You are learning the art of sculpting the self, building a family, a career, the dreams you wish to actualize. Your future seems limitless because it is! While you see humanity fluxing it’s justices and injustices, you pray – simply – that your life be a peaceful pursuit of deeper understanding and the vital beauty of love; that your children will never see war; that the dark sides of man stay far from home; that avoidable suffering be avoided and unavoidable suffering comes with healing. You wish love upon the world.

2: Then everything is taken. Your family is stolen, to a fate you will never know. Your possessions all lost. Your freedom replaced by imprisonment. The only property now yours is this naked, breathing body. The injustices you wished would stay far came, because a wish is just a wish. The purpose of life is no longer to love and create; the purpose of life is to endure; to endure unimaginable pain and suffering, with no foreseeable end. Your hope is only to meet death with nobility and somewhere amid this shortened life of suffering find meaning.

… Could you do it? … What is the purpose in a life of suffering?

This sounds wildly dramatic, right? It’s not. These are the true circumstances of our first, wise and inspiring teacher, Dr. Viktor Frankl. It has also been the fate of millions of people whose potential was extinguished by the actions of the ignorant and subsequently by the inaction of the compassionate. There are more people than we can imagine, enduring this reality even as we sit and read this very sentence. It is from this paramount void of humanness that Dr. Frankl – survivor of three years in Auschwitz and the father of logotherapy – managed to weave the ‘slender threads of a broken life into a firm pattern of meaning and responsibility.’ It is through his work, Man’s Search for Meaning that we are given our first road map.

‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is the focus work of our week; a book that took Dr. Frankl nine days to write. It is a paramount work in the world of modern psychology and the home to every quotation in today’s post. If it has not yet graced your palms, I could not more highly suggest you swim through the 150 pages of his wisdom. This act will free more fruit from Frankl’s brilliant branches than I could ever hope to carry. No less, I will do my best to carry forth what I am able.

Let’s move forward to nourishing wisdom! Welcome it into your hungry heart and mind, humbled by the simple fact that your reality is not the loss of all you have. Today you are living a window of freedom and limitless potential. What will you do with it?


I will warn you. This week is by far the THICKEST of all our weeks, so take each of these in as slow or in as many doses as you need. I have done my best to separate ideas, while they are all certainly connected. If you need to break, head down to the final section and circle back.

Wisdom Fruit One: *You are a Meaning Seeking Being
Wisdom Fruit Two: *Your One Responsibility
Wisdom Fruit Three: *Healthy Questions; Healthy Aim
Wisdom Fruit Four: *The Wealth of the Selfless
Wisdom Fruit Five: *Embrace Tension
Wisdom Fruit Six: *Love Your Fellow Seeker

Wisdom Fruit One: *You are a Meaning Seeking Being!

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone.”

This is the root of Dr. Frankl’s philosophy, logotherapy (“logo”: Greek = meaning), and this core commonality binding us all is perhaps the most key concept tying our fourteen weeks ahead, so let this sink in.

The greatest leaders of our world are those who achieve heights of meaning that derives from the true and total sacrifice to an ideal or host of values, even in death. In watching men give up their last piece of bread so another can live and so many other lives sacrificed for great purpose, Frankl explains that these people may be “few in number, but they offer sufficient proof 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, to choose one’s own way.”

“Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decisions which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity…”

You are a meaning seeking being, and your ability to actualize this meaning comes from your attitude in any given set of circumstances; to be powerful or powerless.

Which one do you aspire to be, starting right now?

Wisdom Fruit Two: *Your One Responsibility

Your one responsibility in life is to make real the things your heart calls you to create. So, of the choice above, you don’t have a choice. It is your RESPONSIBILTY to be powerful and proactive, not to yourself and to our greater humanity.

So no more excuses. It’s time to leave your mind, time to stop pursuing what other people pursue (conformism), time to stop pursuing what people wish for us to pursue (totalitarianism), and go out into the world and find our OWN thing! And when Frankl says ‘out in the world,’ he means out of the mind and into your immediate surroundings!

Everything that has come before now has been designed specifically as your one, unique test, and thus no other person has faced the exact chain of challenges and blessings that you have. This makes you perfectly equipped, RIGHT NOW, to fulfill a specific purpose awaiting you in the moment at hand.

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

So how do I find my meaning in life?! First we’ve got to ask healthier, more incrementally achievable questions!

Wisdom Fruit Three: *Healthy Questions; Healthy Aim

First off, there is no answer to the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ Not only is this different for each of us, we can’t know the answer to this yet! We can, however, boldly answer the question ‘What is my specific opportunity and responsibility in this moment?’

“It 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 being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and dedication, but in right action and in right conduct.”

We’re growingly self-centered in our thinking. It’s not about serving the world; it’s about conquering the world. And where is it leading us? So let’s right now, step out of the ego.

Your life is going to end, and at the end of it – you will be defined by the way in which you loved and the concrete impacts you had on your fellow man and your planet. The question that will help us fade in peace and accomplishment is simply this ‘What is my specific opportunity and responsibility in this very moment?’

“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 dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-produce of one’s surrender to a person other 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 of it!.”

Wisdom Fruit Four: *The Wealth of the Selfless

The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. Self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.

If you were told you had six months to live, what would you do? Who would you spend it with? How much would you sacrifice to make these things real, and then continue living?! These questions are places to farm out your heart calls! Some of us are practiced in this kind of goal setting, but for those who aren’t – write out answers! This is where it starts.

Frankl tells us that there are three general ways of discovering meaning in life:

1. CREATE: By creating a work or doing a deed.
Ex: To raise children, to paint, to build a company, to fight for equity, to donate
time, money, passion.

2. EXPERIENCE: By experiencing something or encountering someone
Ex: To Love Someone! To Explore! To befriend a stranger, to love a child in Kenya, to chase the wild callings of your heart!

3. ATTITUDE: By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
“Human potential at it’s best is to transform a personal tragedy into a human achievement.”
“In accepting the challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this
meaning literally until the end. In other words, life’s meaning is an unconditional one, for it even includes the potential meaning of unavoidable suffering.”

As an additive, I LOVE the way Frankl explains, LOVE:

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential to him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”

Wisdom Fruit Five: *Embrace Tension

It’s exercise! Remember?! Without tension and stretching and FIRE, achievement wouldn’t feel so spectacular! Embrace tension, inner tension and environmental tension, as both a way to find meaning and a test of just how worthy it is. The more tension, the greater the opportunity!

“It can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one should become.”

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

Wisdom Fruit Six: *Love Your Fellow Seeker

Look around you. Everyone of the people you see are searching in the same way that you are. They have the same capacity for joy and pain and are of as much potential value to our world as you are. The only thing that differentiates us is what, exactly, we are searching for. It is time to see one another this way and work to assist, actively assist, one another to find and achieve higher meaning.

This is the second half of our RESPONSIBILITY and the focus of Week Two. But for today, go out of your way to show your love and understanding for others. This is where compassion begins.

All six fruit need chewing and their nutrients, welcoming. Now it’s time to give substance to a wish! It’s time to Go Baby Go! This section is MY small and and achievable action plan for the week. If you want to join me, please do! It’s important that our wish for a better world leave the mind and begin it’s healing course through ACTION.



On a piece of paper: (Once)

1. Make a list of the things you would wish to achieve if given six months to live. Imagine the reality of this deeply, as if you were really given this news.
a. Pick one that calls you most.

b. Make an action plan for how to achieve the first step toward it.

c. Make a date for completion

d. Take the first step.

In YOUR World: (At Least Once Each; for the Ambitious Every Day this Week)

1. Commit a Random Act of Kindness – in the life of someone you love and in the life of a total stranger. This restores our sense of togetherness; our humanness!

Wow. If you are reading this sentence, I love you so much. Thank you for your kindness and wish of love and fire! This week is by far the most dense. Each week from here on out will be more near half the length. Chew, digest, sacrifice your dollar, and ACT ACT ACT baby! You are a blessing to this world, you are limitless in this very moment, and your life will be more beautiful than you could ever dream it. To get there, we’ll start simply answering this question bravely: What is my specific opportunity and responsibility in this moment?




§ 4 Responses to Week One: Your Meaning to Life

  • Nya says:

    I don’t know where to begin, Brian. What an enlightening post! A year ago, I moved to Australia to pursue my Master’s but also to get reacquainted with myself. In the meanwhile, I learned so much about others people and cultures, which in turn raised questions about myself. I thought of this as you shared Frankl’s definition of Love. It was like a mirror, and their strengths became mine. Their strife, became my own and I wanted to find ways to answer their pressing questions in life. I had learned to love in a way I never imagined. A selfless, unconditional love. And in this instance, perhaps the other party isn’t always aware that this admiration exists for them.

    But now a year later, I am soon to be returning home. And I consistently ask myself where am I going now? I am constantly writing notes to myself that I want more out of life. But what is more? And who is to say this or that is more—or less? This quote just screams at me:

    “Everything that has come before now has been designed specifically as your one, unique test, and thus no other person has faced the exact chain of challenges and blessings that you have.”

    I don’t even know who’s definition of success I’d be aiming at, just to miss. And so now, I’m off to complete the week’s challenge, along with writing new healthy notes to myself. Ones that continue to exude acceptance, compassion and positivity in whatever “freely chosen task” arises within my journey.

    • Nya,

      Your words are as inspiring and warming as any. Thank you for this beautifully insightful act of sharing. We are a better world because of your courage and thoughtful action.

      Please continue sharing your heart calls throughout this journey. You are extraordinary, truly, and your writing is both capturing and deeply honest. You will achieve great, unimaginable success by the simple fact that you are meeting life’s daily questions with bravery and clarity… and action. What this success will look like for each of us is not important, in fact it Is the very mystery of it that should excite us!

      You are living proof of this gorgeous truth.

      Why try to imagine the beauty of a place you are going, while there is such immense beauty in need of your attention with every step along the way?

      Onward Mighty Warrior!

  • Brenda Wilkins says:

    Brian, below is the email I sent to my email list. I am posting it in case anyone else might like to copy it and send it on to their friends too. ~ Blessings!

    Friends, This is a gift I am sending to you.
    Please let me introduce you to the remarkable work of Brian Jones; volunteer and compassionate champion for FLYING KITES (www.flyingkitesglobal.org). I promise reading his blog (https://twosailingships.wordpress.com) will bring you peace, inspiration and wisdom. And perhaps like me, you will wade into the waters of his journey to change the lives of Kenyan orphans.

    • Brenda! You are so awesome! I am so grateful for your love and flag-waving. Know that a whole house of kids and moms and adventurous humanity lovers – in the mountains of Kenya – are wildly grateful for all-call!

      Be enveloped in the beauty of this simple but vital gift! This random of ACT of kindness!



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