Frankl would often say that happiness cannot be pursued. When a person finds meaning happiness ensues.
Together with my chevruta (study partner) I have been studying the topic of happiness from the book Alei Shur. This and several upcoming blog posts will outline the meanings that emerged there, with the aim of exploring that meaning within the context of logotherapy.
We live in a world of contrasts. Heaven and earth, man and woman, body and soul are all examples of polar opposites. However they don’t always have to remain in opposition. At times they positively influence one another. It even happens that they become united.
Happiness can be defined as the connecting or unifying/merging of opposites.
If we take the example of heaven and earth, the phenomenon of rain reflects the heavens exerting influence on the earth. The midrash (homiletic commentary on Bible) uses very sensual imagery to describe this:
“The upper waters are male and the lower dimension is female. These say to these: ‘Receive us. You are God’s creatures and we are God’s messengers.’ They [the earth] immediately receive them. This is as it is written ‘The earth will open’ – as female opens for male.’ Thus rain is the mating of heaven and earth. And when the rain falls the whole world is happy.” (Genesis Ch 13: 14)
In the course of learning we noticed a few things.
1) For one, connecting is specified as separate from uniting (or merging). Evidently there can be points of connection even if it’s not a perfect union.
2) Another insight we had was that what is expressed here seems to point to there being a desire to be received, and not just simply “giving” and receiving.
3) On the receiving end there has to be an open-ness to receive. This is not passive but something very active.
4) Even though they are polar opposites, they have the capacity to unite completely! This is apparently because on a spiritual plane the polar opposite positions fall away. The conflicts and contrasts only come from being in this physical world. We found this idea amazing!
5) What follows from this is that the unity of opposites on the spiritual plane reflects the naturalness of the bond. But again, since this world challenges us with barriers and resistances what is natural nonetheless requires work.
Does this stimulate still further thought for you? Feel free to comment.