Avicii And The Myth Of Sisyphus

Such sad news breaking today – Swedish DJ and musician, Avicii (Tim Bergling) has died.  His music was unique and had an existentialist flavour to it; he dealt with themes of meaning in work/life, relationships and self-worth.

‘Levels’, released in 2013, was a good example of this. In the video you see a reference to ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ as popularised by French absurdist/existentialist philosopher and author, Albert Camus.

Sisyphus was condemned to an eternity of hard, repetitive and frustrating labour.  His assignment was to roll an enormous boulder up a hill; each time he seemingly achieved his goal, after much exertion and application, the boulder rolled back down to the bottom of the hill again. And so the story unfolds with monotonous repetitiveness into eternity.

Avicii’s ‘Levels’ explores the meaning of work and the deadening weight of a repetitive existence. But like Sisyphus, there is more than just a modicum of hope in the story. Avicci’s character breaks out of that monotony and issues a wake-up call to colleagues and others he makes contact with; Sisyphus also, eventually finds meaning in his task.

Such is the reality of our existence; the search for meaning and purpose is an essential part of being human; it manifests itself both consciously and unconsciously.  It is possible to find meaning in any moment, even in the midst of dullness. It is also possible, in-as-much as we are free from external constraints, to do something different – to seek a change in direction.

As Viktor Frankl once famously wrote: ‘Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’. It seems that understanding this quest was important to Tim Bergling too.

Moltmann: ‘Without Hope One Cannot Live’

“Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.”  Prof. Jürgen Moltmann, in ‘Theology of Hope’.

Moltmann articulates the truth at the heart of the Christian message – that hope is intrinsic to our faith journey. Hope is immutable; it exists regardless of external circumstances and is accessible in even the most dire of circumstances.  As the prophet Isaiah made clear in relation to God’s promise, as articulated in 43:2 –‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze’. Or who could fail to be moved by the words of Jesus in John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid?

Hope is a beautiful reality that is with us whoever we are and wherever we might go.

 

Logotherapy & Identity: Who Am I?

The novelist Ralph Ellison wrote in ‘Invisible Man’: “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”  There is much wisdom in that short quote; it takes seriously the work of discovery and the individual nature of that quest.

Identity is important It gives us a sense of well-being and self worth; it celebrates our uniqueness. It is also inextricably linked to how we find and express meaning and purpose in our lives.

Lutheran Minister, Theologian and anti-Nazi activist, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, expressed the contradiction that we often find at the heart of our identity in his poem ‘Who Am I?’ At the end he finds his answer: ‘Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!’

Logotherapy & Existential Analysis is a therapeutic approach that allows and promotes self-discovery in each individual. Each journey is unique.

In this short video I explore some of the issues surrounding identity and why it’s important in our lives:

World Bipolar Day: Living Beyond Limitations

Today, on World Bipolar Day, I’m reminded of the words of Carl Jung: ‘The one who learns to live with his incapacity has learned a great deal’. 

World Bipoar Day

We all live with incapacity to some degree, not just those who live with a Bipolar diagnosis. Adapting to it, and finding meaning and self-transcendence in it, and through it, makes an enormous difference.

I know many people, who use the insight gained through living with a particular illness, to help others in comparable situations. They turn their incapacity into an advantage (and of course to the advantage of others). In that respect they are unique and are fulfilling a task no-one else can in quite the same way.

As Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:27: But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’. An apt reminder of the purpose inherent in living with a life-limiting, but also life affirming condition, such as Bipolar Disorder.

Bonhoeffer: The True Meaning of Easter

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran Minister, Theologian and Anti-Nazi Activist, who was executed a few days before the end of the war, wrote this in ‘Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible:

“It is not that God’s help and presence must still be proved in our life; rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, in God’s Son Jesus Christ, than to discover what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I will die. And the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, will be raised on the day of judgment”

Merton & Frankl: Meaning & Responsibility

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Thomas Merton Plaque, Louisville (Photo Source: I.W. Marsh)

The following quote, from the Cistercian Monk Thomas Merton, on responsibility and meaning could easily have been written by the Psychiatrist and Founder of Logotherapy, Viktor Frankl:

“In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for ‘finding himself.’ If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence”.

As a Logotherapist, I understand that the ‘meaning of our own existence’ functions at two different levels: proximate meaning and ultimate meaning.  The former can vary from day to day and hour by hour and can be characterised, among many other things, by fulfilling relationships or a purposeful career. The latter represents a higher order of meaning, which underpins the proximate, and has been described by Frankl in ‘Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning’ as the ‘unconscious desire for inspiration or revelation’.

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Prof. Viktor Frankl (Photo Source: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely)

Frankl, like Merton understand that free will, or the freedom to make a stand, is mirrored by an individual’s absolute responsibility to respond to life’s questions and to chart a unique path in line with their calling and individual values.

Frankl and Merton have much in common; their understanding of love, responsibility and meaning show a degree of sophistication and insight that is enhanced by their divergent backgrounds and unique experiences.

From Power To Peace

This quote and insight from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr still resonates today with the threat of a new arms race on the horizon:

“Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a ‘peace race.’ If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.”

Resilience, Hope & The God Within

The existentialist philosopher Albert Camus’ famous quote: “In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me resided an invincible summer”, reminds us that resilience resides within.

Hope is intrinsic to our existence; it cannot be attained by wealth, power or anything that the world can bestow upon us.

It is the work of a lifetime to uncover our inner strength and to utilise it in the realisation of meaning. Herein lies the purpose of Logotherapy, the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, founded by Viktor Frankl.

The insert of the front cover of the revised and enlarged version of Frankl’s ‘The Unconscious God’ points to a greater reality of the inner life, namely: ‘in the Unconscious God, Dr. Frank rediscovers the truth that so many of today’s philosophers and psychologists ignore: essential to man’s humanity is his awareness, conscious or unconscious, of a God within him that distinguishes him from other animals.’

Resilience, hope and the God within represent the trinity of self-understanding and are the precursors and catalysts to living a meaningful life.