from C.G. Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections


“The world is brutal and cruel, and yet, it is full of divine beauty. To live is to encounter the cold bitterness of authentic suffering. We find ourselves bumping up against meaninglessness all the time. Each action we take, how we encounter each situation. Any yet it is our job to imbue the world with names, meanings, connections. Through our interaction, our engagement, we breathe worth into the wasteland. By searching for meaning, we begin to achieve it.”

Jung decides that whether we tend toward meaninglessness or toward meaningfulness is a matter of temperament. If, meaninglessness were preponderant, the meaningfulness of life would in fact vanish over the course of life. Probably both are true. Life is meaningless and has meaning. I cherish the anxious hope that meaning will preponderate and will win the battle.

Amen! It is the great prayer of religion lifting its eyes, the great hope of the dawn pink as new flesh, the faint whisper of the downtrodden, the last cry of the dying. It reminds me of William Faulkner’s decree from the Nobel podium, “It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

And also, Jung’s hope reminds me of the hopeful words of Thomas Mann, in his essay for the radio program “This I Believe” in 1951, “To man, time is given like a piece of land, as it were, entrusted to him for faithful tilling; a space in which to strive incessantly, achieve self-realization, move onward and upward. Yes, with the aid of time, man becomes capable of wresting the immortal from the mortal. Deep down, I believe–and deem such belief natural to every human soul–that in the universe, prime significance must be attributed to this earth of ours. Deep down, I believe that creation of the universe out of nothingness and that of life out of inorganic state ultimately aimed at the creation of man. I believe that man is meant as a great experiment whose possible failure by man?s own guilt would be paramount to the failure of creation itself. Whether this belief be true or not, man would be well-advised if he behaved as though it were.


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