Hearing the Message
“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment… everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” (Frankl)
So Personal Meaning is about me because it is unique, concrete and specific.
But it is not just about me, in fact the opposite. It is about listening out for something or someone beyond me – Life, God, the Universe, or the Unconscious – which is calling me, summoning me to do something, to carry out a task or go on a path. That ‘something’ invariably involves somebody else.
How do I discover Personal Meaning?
According to the Oxford dictionary meaning means what is meant or intended, which doesn’t help us very much. If we change languages for a moment, to Hebrew, we get a very different picture. The word for meaning in Hebrew is ‘mashmaut,’ and like all Hebrew words it has a root; that is the three middle letters of a word, which express the essence of the word. The root of ‘mashmaut’ is hear; so we understand that the essence of meaning is to hear.
How does one hear Meaning? Not by listening to the radio or TV, but by paying attention to stimuli both in the outside world and in our inner world. Let me give you an example.
Recently we had guests over for lunch. That same morning I had heard an amazing story and thought to share it with them. However before doing so I asked them a question: What is life all about? Is it a haphazard series of events without any connection between them or is everything in this world connected by someone or something beyond this world?
My guest’s answer was very interesting. He said Yes and No. How can everything be connected and not connected at the same time? In order to explain the ‘Yes’ he told a story. He lived in Montreal and he had been thinking recently about coming on a trip to Israel, but he couldn’t make up his mind. One day he was sitting on a bench outside his apartment, and he asked the universe to give him a message. Suddenly he saw a bird fly out of a tree. He understood straightaway that here was his message – go fly to Israel.
He ‘heard’ what the universe was telling him.
Regarding the ‘No,’ he said there are many, many things which happen to us every day, we can’t be thinking about messages all the time.
He’s right; just imagine that every time we saw a bird we would look for a message, that wouldn’t leave very much time for anything else. Sometimes we hear a clear message immediately; at other times the message is unclear and requires effort and time in order to understand it. And sometimes we don’t understand.