“Life should fulfill me.”
Who asks what life expects from them?
Here I am stopped in my tracks by our town’s “Before I die…” public art installation. I am impressed, as you can tell. Seriously. Young people would appear to have dug deep to chalk up their hopes and dreams.
Walk the Camino
Travel the world
Conquer all my fears
Take care of someone who doesn’t have a home
Ignore “BBQ a cat” and “Have a light-sabre duel”, for the most part this anonymous wish list reveals the yearning for meaning.
“Before I die…” originated in New Orleans. It has since spread around the world, but the aspirations are similar:
Be completely myself
Understand why I’m here
Live for today
Some of these dreams could be bumper stickers, but so what? I see no reason to believe that the responses are insincere. In fact, I feel as if I’m peering into the open heart of a generation.
Sigmund Freud would have us believe that we are victims of our instincts, trapped in orbits of sex, power, and survival. But look again—most of these confessions aren’t subject to that gravity field at all.
Expand my mind
Find my purpose
Viktor Frankl (another Vienna psychiatrist) became convinced that the most human among us are concerned with something or someone beyond our conventional desires. He should know. He survived Auschwitz. Says Frankl:
“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.”
In the concentration camps, Frankl noticed that the life force ebbed most quickly in those who lost all meaning to their lives. He tended his comrades, presenting them with a similar Before you die… challenge.
“Travel the world?” “Swim with dolphins?” Hardly. These men needed to find meaning in their suffering. But they had given up. Frankl knew they must not give up.
“We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life…”
Frankl asked them to turn the conventional wisdom about “meaning” on its head.
“We had to learn…that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
We’re led to believe that we’re hopelessly caught in the gravity field of the material world. And then you stumble upon evidence of kids falling upwards.
What does life expect from us?
That we’ll grow up.
I don’t know about where you live, but I’m mighty encouraged by the kids in my neighbourhood.