Man’s Search for Meaning and Creativity

victor

From the Bookshelves of Artless is an ongoing series of blog posts connecting the books we house at Artless Hub with the concepts of creativity and creative wellness that are this blog’s focus.

At Artless, we like to surround ourselves with objects that inspire and reflect on the creative process, and the print is no exception. The books are there for browsing at any time during studio periods or workshops, and borrowable for members. With each post we invite you to get to know a title a little better, and see how it connects to your creative journey.

In Man’s Search For Meaning, often cited as one of the most important spiritual books of the 20th century (links – https://www.librarything.com/bookaward/HarperCollins+100+Best+Spiritual+Books+of+the+Century, https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/25212.100_Best_Spiritual_Books_of_the_Century ) Viktor E. Frankl offers a concise yet powerful meditation on the meaning of life. Frankl’s work first discusses his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, and then goes into further detail about his theory of logotherapy (logos is Greek for “meaning” – literally the therapy of meaning). Frankl believes that the meaning of each individual life is unique; however, all human beings possess “the will to meaning.” The drive to find meaning in one’s life is, according to Frankl, more important than the will to pleasure, as Freud would have it, or the will to dominate.

 

In Frankl’s focus on two areas of meaning – work and love, the two forms of meaning he cites as having saved him from death at the hands of the Nazis – we can also look at the book as a discussion of creativity and its role in a life well-lived. The practices of both work and love involve great amounts of creativity. This blog post considers the meaning inherent in work; specifically, in artistic creation.

For Frankl, work was not a means to a financial end, but a response to a calling. His own drive to work as a psychiatrist and theorist, who leveraged the power of creativity to shape the new psychological approach of logotherapy, was key to his survival of Nazi concentration camps. He recalls surviving a bout of typhoid fever, which killed wave upon wave of concentration camp prisoners, by trying to reconstruct a manuscript of his that the Nazis had confiscated, jotting notes with whatever he could find. As he quotes Nietzsche in the book, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

 

Under utterly different circumstances, the meaning we derive from using creativity in our work to make new things, ideas, and images, is integral to our sense of selves as human beings and the importance of our lives. Whether we paint, throw pots, write, knit, felt, make music, dance, or engage in any of the other myriad forms of arts that are open to us, this work carries existential meaning for us and becomes part of who we are. Expressing these aspects of ourselves, whether they are part of our day jobs or not, contributes enormously to the meaning in our lives. And, as Frankl tells us, meaning is the key to well-being. The link between creative work and meaning becomes clear.

In Frankl’s sense, our work need not be our labour that pays the bills. Our work is the work that brings us meaning, and the deep joy and satisfaction that come from accomplishment in fields we care about. Creativity comes in many forms, but artistic creativity is undeniably one of the most under-remunerated across the spectrum of human activity. While there may be a few “superstars” who are able to sustain themselves through their art, most of us are expected to do this work for the love of it rather than the money, fitting artistic time around jobs that pay. Artless Hub aims to provide the space and community for people to do the artistic work that helps them fulfill their will to meaning. We like to think Viktor Frankl would approve.