Recently I was watching an episode of Mad Men, a brilliant show based in New York City during the 60s. The main character, Don Draper, was shown experiencing a projection of his mind whilst returning to his office following a memorial of one of his closest confidantes. This scene is a musical performance, in which the deceased character sings a song unofficially called, “The Best Things in Life are Free.” Within the lyrics of this song, the character portrays a fortitude of life’s unpriced and unowned attributes.
What are some of these things?
I urge you to take a moment before reading beyond this sentence to synthesize in your mind: what in life is free for all?
Let us start with the moon and the stars. Nothing can or will restrict us from bathing in this reflection of nature’s brilliance. For every man and woman that has roamed this Earth, regardless of the change that the waves of time have washed upon our shores, the wondrous night sky has remained beside us. Both young and old have experienced the inexplicable feeling of peering into the abyss of the darkness above, thinking of all the magnificence that flows through this seemingly unimaginable space. Some may stare into this beauty of pure nothingness, allowing their minds to quiet down. Others may drift into the mystery of the unknown and endless possibility. There is something terrifying, yet comforting about losing yourself in what rests above our heads. Nothing in this life will humble an individual like the vastness of the atmosphere.
And into the atmosphere, we breathe. Out of our lungs, and into the air. The fuel for fire, and the product of trees. A deep connection between man and nature. Many have paid the price for the simple luxury of survival, and yet, this air that flows through our souls remains sacredly unconstrained. Only upon the removal of this freedom, do we recognize the beauty of each breath. In times of desperation, as our hearts reach for the light above the water. During the overwhelming parades of life’s triumphant reality. In these moments, there is only one true form of restoration.
Undoubtedly, the blessings of nature have stretched their arms around humankind and gifted us with a world of brilliance. This human right that allows us to experience the world as we know it, extends further, through ourselves and into society. Collectively we live, together we laugh, as one we fall. The human connection, like the moon and the stars, like the air that we breathe, like time as it ticks, and like the thoughts that roll through our minds, the human connection cannot be replaced.
Through the years of suffering that millions have endured, there has been only one consistent tyrannous actor and only one light within the dark. We are the creators and the liberators of pain. This has proven to be true since the dawn of man, the great hypocrisy of the human race.
Human suffering will always exist, but one single causation of suffering does not drag on forever. The power of the human experience, the connection between man and his fellow tribesman, is far too powerful. The ability to feel for one another; the sympathetic neurons that flow through our veins. The ability to conceive pain as one. Suffering does not last forever.
In Victor Frankl’s novel, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, the author relays the years he spent as a Jewish prisoner in Nazi internment camps during the Second World War. He speaks of human nature in the midst of true suffering and outlines the psychological differences between those who saw the end of the war, and those that did not.
There was an intrinsic, undeniable quality that gifted these individuals the ability to push their bodies beyond the confounds of death and save their minds from drowning beneath the relentless waves of despair that had all but flooded their minds.
The feelings that we as humans manifest for ourselves, and create between one another, are strong enough to override the inevitable. Even when death has all but kissed our souls goodbye, the heart is capable of carrying on.
Through the conversational ease between a man and his truest friend. As an individual with the burning desire to accomplish. The inner child within us all, foregoing the shrouds of darkness that cloud our minds, staring into what life has yet to become.
This ability to manifest something more powerful than ourselves, it is priceless. Free for every man and woman, and free since the beginning of time. We feel it every now and again. We feel it when we take the time to peer into space. We feel it when we break out of our shells and allow the night to sweep us through her wild embrace. We feel it in her presence, and you feel it in his. We feel it together, as a community in motion. We feel it within ourselves when we think about the places we’ve been, and the faces we’ve seen. We feel it when we don’t know what to feel. And oh what a feeling it is.
Frankl, a psychologist before the war, struggled himself with finding a reason to continue living. As each day passed and his body begged him to close his eyes one last time, his mind and heart managed to break through to the truth of his being. They reminded him of his unfinished novels, of his children and friends, but what ultimately inspired each forward step, was the thought of his wife.
Though surely she had not survived the terrors of war, he felt her with him in the wind, and in his pain as he wept. She did not cry for him to join her, but instead, reminded him to carry on, for not even she knew what the future would hold. The small chance though, that his lifeline and closest confidant was still roaming this Earth without him, this was enough to inspire his broken being.
Is there anything in this life more valuable? More euphoric? Is there a place where this moment in time will carry on forever? Love is no different than the stars in the sky and is no less vital to human confounds than the oxygen that we breathe.
Mysterious in its nature, a feeling that we all pursue, but hardly know when we’re in its presence. Terrifying, we discover, upon being spit through this dark hole. And even with these unknowns and the pain that is sure to result from heartbreak, time and time again we allow this feeling to sweep us away.
Friendship and love, these intangible aspects of life, allow us to grasp the pieces of ourselves that seemed previously unattainable. Giving us the courage to pursue what rests behind our fears. Transcending us beyond our egos into a place of truth. Our true selves. Our true desires.
They give us purpose.
Often we find it difficult to provide ourselves a reason to continue through the trenches of war, but with the remnants of love gracefully burned into our hearts, the mud turns to pavement, and our doubts dance with the eagerness to return to those who we care for most.
Is it so wrong to live for reasons beyond ourselves?
Common it is, to be told that we must make decisions solely in our best interest. Yet, in choosing to crawl ahead with the thought of others in our mind, aren’t we doing just that?
Our purpose in this world is not defined for us, thus we are presented with the opportunity to make a choice. The norm is based upon a climb up the social ranks, categorized by financial statutes and personal possessions. But these pursuits fill our pockets, not our selves.
Money, to the mass, is a physical tangent used to acquire another such thing.
But what is money used to provide quality of life for one’s family or to pursue one’s passions?
In one scenario you have a consumer. In the other, you have a provider, and a dreamer.
Is it wrong to work towards a life of quality?
Of course not. But are these not false expectations?
Generally, I try to avoid writing in the first person in order to keep my writings in tune with philosophical analyses rather than personal stories/blogging, but as a recent college graduate and typical 9 to 5 desk job employee, I find it relevant to the thesis at hand. I’ve struggled dearly, trying to figure out why I should get up for work every day, why I should work hard and attempt to progress in the world, or why I do much of anything. The why, in my case, was clearly empty, and I know, in so many of my friends and peers, that we struggle with the same lack of purpose.
In the last year, I made a decision for myself, based upon all that I’ve experienced and felt in this life, and ultimately it became clear that love and that which comes with this feeling, is all I would ever need. This moves beyond the love for a woman but is rather a dedication to the idea, and how it lives within the world around us, and within us.
Friendship. Romance. Self-imagery. How we view the world. How we treat strangers. And the person that we present to the world. All of these intangibles are driven by the idea of love.
Frankl practiced a form of therapy that was based upon this struggle. Identifying an individual’s purpose, or the lack thereof. Each and every one of his patients and fellow comrades in the internment camps had failed to discover for themselves what their purpose in life was, thus directing them down an unlit path, sure to lead them over the edge.
Logotherapy, as Frankl coined, is defined as a man’s search for meaning, with the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find meaning in their own lives.
In almost every case, Frankl simply assisted the individual in digging this purpose out of their situational position, and the simplicity behind this idea has revived many hopeless hearts, with a success rate that is impossible to ignore.
Upon the acceptance of this journey towards love, in all its forms, the moments in which my life felt grey and the pains of loneliness attacked my mind, slowly, they felt hopeful. Hopeful with the realization that I am loved by those I reciprocate the feeling towards. Optimistic of the fact that I have been loved before, which must ultimately mean that I am loveable. Hopeful because I cannot create a reason to show that I should not feel content with where I am in my life, thus I should not regret my actions, and to not regret your actions, is to accept who you are as an individual.
If this is what I’ve committed myself towards, it would be in my best interest to at least try and understand what I’m after. Therefore the question must be asked: what is love?
Love is unconditional. Not to look past one’s self-determined flaws, but rather to view these distinctions as unique attributes that have led us to become who we are.
Love is unquestioned. There is no room for doubt in this space. The question of doubt is simply a reflection of false hope. We all want to love and be loved, but the presence of doubt is a signal of that which is not true.
Love is not luck. Fortune does not have a role here. We are not lucky to be loved by someone, for we spend all our lives building ourselves into a lovable human being, obtaining qualities of truth, faithfulness, honesty, tenderness, and care. To believe that we are lucky to have someone dwindles the acquisition of these invaluable traits, and ultimately places one of the partners upon a pedestal, and the relationship will surely wither away.
Love may not be forever. As a wise Australian man expressed to me, we have “Friends for a reason, Friends for a season, and Friends for life.” Some trials may only live for a short period of time, or they may last forever. This does not make either right or wrong, nor does it take away from the connection that was made, and the memories that were lived. We must take each experience for what it is, and learn to enjoy the beauty of the moment.
Love is peaceful, and not, as it is so commonly portrayed, a battle. The battle exists within the individuals, not within the idea. That is not to say that love is easy, but the state of love is one that should place our souls at ease. The anxieties that we experience are self-derived, and therefore, can be self resolved.
Love is an action. Love is to serve, and as one of my closest confidants, Brandon Nye puts it, “We do what we do because we love. Love is a verb that transpires the ability to bound our will to a single thing, person, movement, or ideology.” Again, actions that move against this idea are simply signs of false hope. When love is truly placed in front of us, we understand the results of our actions and how they will affect one another. You may express your feelings with words, but they will only prove truthful in symphony with our actions.
Love is unselfish. How real it may feel to care for someone more than you care for yourself. Sometimes we are placed in a position where we must receive the burden of pain, in order to allow another to find refuge.
Love is undefinable, which is why it is impossible to describe how one feels when in the midst of such an aura. This is also why we ill-associate negative feelings towards this beautiful state of being, as this is one of the few things in our lives today that is not defined for us, nor can it be. Thus, as we experience pain as a result, we convince ourselves it’s a result of love, when in reality, it is a result of our own negligence.
Ultimately though, love is free.
The value of internal fulfillment that love provides within our lives is priceless. Free, this form of mutual respect is to all, and forever will this feeling live. You may pay in the form of suffering as your thoughts tire your mind. You may owe a debt towards those you’ve wronged, and whose hearts you’ve broken. But ultimately, love is simply a dedication, and to live for something that is free, is to live freely.
Like the moon and the stars. Like the air that we breathe. Like time as it ticks, and like the thoughts that roll through our minds. The best things in life, are free.