Sunday, November 10, 2013


According to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to fulfill more 'advanced' needs. These are usually pictured in a pyramid, with basic physiological needs (food water, sleep) at the bottom, followed by safety and security needs. Then come social and friendship needs, followed by self-esteem and success needs, with "self-actualization" at the top.

In practical terms, our desire to live and survive is paramount.

But if that is so, why do people commit suicide?

In my opinion, once our basic survival needs are met, we arrive at the questions of meaning and purpose.

My search for meaning began during my second year in college. I had transferred from a small college in my hometown to a large state university in another state. The loss of familiarity, and feeling overwhelmed and insignificant by the size of the student body, made me quite vulnerable. And the intellectual challenges of the academic world soon saw my old Sunday School answers and beliefs evaporate as my new questions expanded. What if there is no God? What if death means the end of my existence? Why live if it all comes to nothing? Why not end it now?

My own suicidal thoughts and search for meaning led me to realize that the love and friendships in my life had mattered to me, whether or not  I ceased to exist at death. So I made a choice and decided that life was worth living...I chose life.

A few years ago, I was watching a TV program where a priest made the following comment:
"We don't find meaning in life...we make meaning."

We can study the world's great philosophers, adopt various spiritual disciplines of the world's great religious traditions, and/or find our personal guru. But in the end, we must decide for our self and choose our own path.  No one can live our life for us.

How then shall we live?
No one's answers really matter but our own, and it is only through working out our own spirituality that we
make our way.

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