Finding Meaning In The Treasure Of The Past

Inspired by Viktor Frankl’s reflection on deeds done, loves loved, and sufferings faced with courage.

The heart’s treasure chest [Credit: Jouwen Wang on Unsplash]

The Journal of Life

That weekend I finished reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. This article is largely inspired by his ideas and profound outlook on life, love, and suffering. This passage was fresh in my mind as I looked at my old journal:

Finding Meaning In The Treasure Hunt

As my mind’s eye sculpts this story, there’s something familiar about it. Isn’t there something in Christianity, about your entire life being shown to you upon death? I Google a few terms and eventually find it: particular judgment, the concept in Christianity whereby a soul is divinely judged after death.

An angel with the Book of Life.

The Heart’s Treasure Chest

When it was clear this would be the first Christmas away from my family, I was sent a festive package to bring some of home to me. The box was full of thoughtful gifts, such as favorite foods from the UK. But what moved me the most were the trinkets. There were two candles, one in the shape of Father Christmas, one of a snowman. With them, a note:

Two candles (not for burning — display only LOL) to remind you of old Xmas’ gone by. The snowman is very special as you bit the chunk out of his hat when you were small, thinking it was edible! Can you bring him home with you xxx.

I wept. It wasn’t sadness. It’s hard to define. It was a mixture of melancholy and nostalgia, of gratitude that this candle, on the surface just a candle, was filled with meaning, a chunk irrevocably missing thanks to my three-year-old self. The candle was a trinket of the heart’s treasure chest in physical form.

A Chance To Choose Again

The heart’s treasure chest shows us not only that we are lucky to love, but moments of love and meaning are everywhere; in a snowman candle, mince pies, a song a friend recommended with subtle tears in their eyes, off the cuff jokes that made your ribs hurt, ambitious scribbles from a creative brainstorm with a soon-to-be lover, a photo hidden in the shared media of a WhatsApp conversation, a gentle and fleeting touch when you felt afraid and didn’t think you showed it.

“Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrong the first time as you are about to act now.”

This could be interpreted a number of ways. But following the above experiences, I see this as a prompt to use the past and the transitory nature of the present to add meaning to all moments to come, however many we are gifted. Setting this intention is choosing again; choosing meaning, love, choosing to create more treasure. One definition of religion is from the Latin re-eligere, which literally means to choose again.

Reflection And Frankl’s Super-Meaning

The ethos of reflection on the past isn’t particular judgment, but a particular perspective on deeds done. There is no right or wrong, no yearning, no pearly gates. Just this small room, the table, the chair, the journal, and the treasure chest. By slowing down and stepping off the treadmill, an enchanted quality is revealed: each treasure is seen through the lens of Frankl’s super-meaning:

What’s Reflected?

At the risk of disappearing into a philosophical black hole, these experiences had me reflect on reflection. Why is looking into the past reflection? When you look into a mirror, you see who you are. Is mental reflection the same? Does reflection show you who you are? Is it a reminder of the deeds done, the love loved, the suffering faced with courage showing you who you really are?

By finding the jewel of meaning, nothing is lost, but irrevocably gained, because it was lived.

Is the Journal of Life and the heart’s treasure chest a reminder that, when all is said and done, love is the most important thing, and that throughout your life, as Frankl says, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured? That the truest part of you, much vaster than logic, comprehends the meaning in all moments?

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