The human challenge

The human being is considered the highest of all mammals because he is more capable than all other living creatures. His intelligence is of a high order and this has enabled him to alter existing conditions and overcome many limitations.  Though poorly armed and small of stature, he has succeeded in subduing fierce animals and defeating hostile environments. He has ensured easy access to food, water, shelter, safety and companionship. It is surprising therefore that he is not as happy as his condition might suggest. Dissatisfaction dogs him because of the many challenges that he faces. What could they be?

His superior brain that has endowed him with many advantages burdens him with disadvantages as well. He, more than any animal, can remember his past, which causes him to recall and brood over his failures. He can envisage a future, but it is one that is filled with uncertainties. Worst of all, he knows that death is inevitable but is completely ignorant of what can follow. His mind stretches towards a benign Creator, but his faith is shaken when he sees avoidable suffering and cruelty. Denial of His existence is of no use either because it robs him of ideals and hopes. In short, his ability to think and analyse is a boon as well as a bane, for it makes him a prisoner of his own mind. “Count no man happy until he is dead’ said Solon, the Athenian lawgiver. Was he right?

There is a telling episode in the life of Abraham Lincoln that throws some light on the matter. During the early period of the Civil War, a minister exhorted Lincoln, ‘Let us have faith, Mr Lincoln, that the Lord is on our side in this great struggle.’ Lincoln thought only for a moment before replying, ‘I am not at all concerned about that, because I know that that the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side.’

Victor Frankl, the well-known psychotherapist, says much the same thing. As an inmate of the dreaded Nazi Auschwitz Concentration camp, he was subjected to untold torture and suffering. Amidst his daily agony, he came to believe that ‘if there is a meaning in life at all, there must be a meaning in suffering.’

In his book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, he points out that rather than look for the meaning of life, one must strive to give a meaning to life. He writes, ‘The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, from hour to hour. One should not search for an abstract meaning to life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life.

Therein he cannot be replaced.’
Man’s biggest and, perhaps only challenge, then is to let go of fear and envy and to ask for guidance from the Higher Self during one’s considerable yet impermanent tenure here on earth.

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