>The Lonesome Valley

>Every so often, as I continue to develop this blog I run into something that causes me to stop and revise a lot of what I thought before. It’s like coming up to a T in the road I can’t continue in a straight line anymore, I have to make a turn. This past week has been like that for me.

After just over a year of writing I finally decided to take a closer look at existential philosophy. To be honest I used to think that the whole idea of existentialism was pointless and I had very little time for it. But that was before I understood what it really means. Funny how that works sometimes isn’t it?

The reason that I initially resisted existentialism was that I thought it was fatalistic. I thought that the statement at the core of existentialism was that life has no meaning and no purpose, que sera sera so to speak, but as I began to take a closer look at it I realized that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact the core of existentialism isn’t a statement all but a question.

Existentialist don’t start by saying there is no meaning, they start by asking what the meaning is. When I realized that I began to understand that I am an existentialist and that The Earworm is an ongoing existential study of our post modern society.

While the search for a meaning to life is at the heart of existentialism, according to psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl the question itself is actually a red herring. In his landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning” first published in 1945, Frankl explains that life demands meaning from us, not the other way around. For man to ask “what is the meaning of life” is to confuse the issue by trying to put the answer outside of ourselves when it is really life itself that demands, “what is the meaning of you?”

Put another way; it is up to each of us to find meaning in our own lives. Without it we may as well just give up and die right now.

When Dr. Frankl returned to clinical practise after three years as a prisoner at Auschwitz, witnessing and surviving through some of the worst human atrocities ever perpetrated, he would often ask suicidal patients what had stopped them before they came to him. After all, if they really wanted to kill themselves, wouldn’t they be dead already? The answers he got pointed to the meaning and higher purpose that his patients were able to find even in the depths of their own despair. They would talk about love, family and unfulfilled dreams. In a word, they would talk about meaning.

Nietzsche said that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how”. Pain and suffering are a fact of life. No one knew that better than Dr. Frankl, but it is meaning and purpose, despite that pain and suffering that can see us through absolutely anything.

There is a meaning to life, but it’s up to you to find it. In the words of an old American Spiritual;

We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.

Our task is to find meaning in the walk.


  1. >Interseting post Lauren. Good for you!I think nearely all Christians are existentialists … many of them just don't realize it yet. It's the knee-jerk reaction because of the many uninformed, misinformed, or disinformed sermons they have heard. Similarly, all that backlash against situational ethics is misdirected energy as well. When you ask Christians enough questions you soon find that all or most of us practice situational ethics, regardless of what we proclaim from our pulpits.Cheers … Frank

  2. >Thanks for this post. "Man's Search for Meaning" is the most important book I've read. You are absolutely right that it is at the crossroads of understanding where the meaning of life comes from. What I got out of it for myself is that meaning, like everything else people do, is constructed by humans. We are able to give meaning to things, events, and our being alive. It implies that where there isn't meaning for us, we can create it. Frankle points out that in the worst situations it is possible to give meaning to existence. We can think of it as finding meaning, like finding religion, as if it were something lost or camouflaged, or as if we were lost to it, but that is misleading. When 'found', meaning is created in the mind because we choose to live with it. That is the nature of being human. It feels like a discovery, a finding, because we often learn and accept the meaning that people before us have expressed, however it is still choice that creates it for us.The challenge for atheists is to give religious meaning to their lives without God and without looking for meaning in the scripture or even science journals.(I say religious because the urge to feel connected and guided in life is religious and human).I believe that the images of Earth from space are a new paradigm for religious meaning. Earth and being one of those living on it are the core of meaning. The inspiration and vision for this religiosity are in the future. The internet, as with this blog, and so much more, is making the noosphere (realm of consciousness that influences Earth) more harmonious because there are unifying images and concepts for meaning.One candle and infinite candles give one light.There is one u, there is one us.

  3. >What is atheism? what is any thing? all are part of the God force.Thats the problem very few of us think laterally, are view is narrow and confined to what we wish to see and hear not what is. Please expand your minds and see the hole of all not just what you look at. What is not science is philosophy. What is not philosophy is science!Denbigh. Adelaide South Australia. Remember you are not alone in this universe.

  4. >denbigh111…Thanks for joining to conversation. Would you please explain what you mean when you say that very few of us think laterally? What does lateral thinking look like?

  5. >Lateral thinking is looking at all aspects of a subject or :- a way of thinking which seeks the solution to a problem or state of mind by making associations with other apparently unrelated areas, rather than by pursuing one logical train of thought. This is lateral thinking.Denbigh111.

  6. >my Universal Bill of Rights; And Civil Liberties took me three hours to compose Australia as had two hundred years to do one and still has none. that is because the the leaders here or any wear in the world do not think laterally thy think only what others will think of them and what thy wish to be seen to be doing. not what the god force wishes them to do.Denbigh111.

  7. >denbigh111So in other words Lateral thinking is what I would call Wholistic thinking. What happens in that situation when the other, unrelated areas of thought actually are unrelated? Aren't you just running down endless rabbit holes that lead to nowhere? What's wrong with focus on a linear line of reason?

  8. >Lateral thinking is to open the mind to all possibilities, Linear line of reason or thinking is to achieve an end result in the shortest possible time. as you know all things in the universe are connected and all things are related in some way or another. so there are no endless rabbit holes leading nowhere some just take a little extra understanding and thinking about to get there. so call it what you like, all things are connected and related. denbigh111

  9. >There's nothing wrong with lateral or wholistic thinking. But there comes a time when you have to narrow it down and focus on something. A flashlight and a laser beam are essentially the same thing. One lights up a whole room the other cuts steel. The Question is, what do you want to do in a given situation?

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