Some years ago, the famous Viennese psychiatrist, Dr Viktor Emil Frankl, went to Melborne in Australia to give a talk. Dr. Victor Frankl was given a boomerang as a gift. Dr Frankl thought for a few minutes and then said that he felt the boomerang symbolised human existence. He said, “People assume that the function of the boomerang is to return to the thrower. But this isn't true. The boomerang returns to the thrower only when it misses the target. The same is true of in life. We return to ourselves to become self-centreed and self absorbed when we have failed to find meaning in life. If we live for ourselves, spend our money only on ourselves or those closest to ourselves, if we squander our time, and exert our strength only for those things that please us, we pay the price of a meaningless existence.” Dr. Viktor Emil Frankl was one among the very few researchers who spent most of life exploring the meaning of life. He is the founder of logotherapy, a form of Existential Analysis. He also was one among the survivors of the Great Holocaust. Dr Frankl is thought to have coined the term Sunday Neurosis referring to a form of depression resulting from awareness in some people of the emptiness of their lives once the working week is over. This arises from an existential vacuum, which Frankl distinguished from existential neurosis.
Dr Frankl actually poses a few big questions before us. Are we struggling with the experience of an existential vacuum? Could we find the real meaning of our existence in this universe? For sure, only very few have tried to answer these questions. I am reminded the story of an elderly woman who was so afraid of burglars. She decided to put a certain sum of money aside, in case burglars broke in. Of course, eventually a burglar came, and the woman said, ‘Ah! There you are! I’ve been waiting for you. I have something ready for you…’ As for her, she did not know that by expecting a burglar she had attracted one. Most of us live expecting some misfortunes and the purpose of life turns to be limited to our expertise to tackle varying situations. Instead of trying to realise the truth for ourselves, we live pitying on people like Dr Frankl the Jew. There is a popular joke according to which the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer is that a good lawyer knows the law and the great lawyer knows the judge. It would be appropriate to say that a good individual knows the world and a great individual knows the purpose.