I looked back over the list of my experience of meaning and saw something that could make a person wonder: If meaning has no conditions attached to it how can “fulfilling my obligations” be part of the experience of meaning? It might be part of a different experience, but obligations should not stand in the way of meaning, if it is true that life is unconditionally meaningful.
We can put the question this way: Must meaning be moral?
Frankl’s answer is yes.
This does not make sense, unless we understand Frankl’s concept of meaning.
The reason we are thrown by the idea that meaning must be moral is because we are thinking of meaning as a personal preference, and it can be someone’s personal preference to behave in ways that are immoral.
Here is where the Jewish sources help me. There is a law on the books concerning a man who refuses to grant his wife a divorce, thereby making it impossible for her to ever remarry, even if he is no longer living with her. The law is that we “strike him until he says ‘I want’ (to grant the divorce)” The famous codifier of Oral Law, Maimonides explains that this is not considered coercion because it is his own intransigence that is coercing him to be cruel. A person deep down does not wish to be cruel. This man wants to fulfill his religious obligations, and included in that is the obligation to care about and not want to inflict pain on another person.
We don’t implement lashes today but the concept is clear. There are things a person “wants” that can be immoral. However, this is only what he thinks he wants. Deep down, if we get to the level of the precious soul within him, he only wants goodness. The fact that people sabotage themselves by losing touch with the soul’s interest does not change the fact that the soul knows what is good and knows what it wants.
Why is it that meaning must be moral? It is so because meaning is what the person strives for deep down, and what the person wants deep down is always to do what is moral.
Alternatively we can answer the question by saying that meaning is not about the personal want but about the personal message embedded in the reality I face. This message comes from beyond my personal perspective. From my perspective I would collapse in defeat before a suffering reality. From a perspective beyond I can find the meaning of courage, perseverance and faith through it.
These two answers are two sides of the same coin. The striving within me is the same possibility for fulfilling values held by the reality in front of me.
Now that we understand what Frankl means by meaning, we can go back and affirm that each moment is unconditionally meaningful. Nothing can oppose my ability to discover meaning. I can always find meaning in absolutely every situation. I can learn and grow and choose my attitude every moment.