As of late, my research has been dwelling on a close examination of what constitutes meaning in life, as professed by a good number of professional philosophers and psychologists. When you putz around articles and books on meaning, one person comes up more than anyone else: Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. First published in 1946, it’s required reading for anyone who wants to explore the topic of meaning in life.
For me, it’s not arguing anymore. As someone who has always enjoyed a good debate and has typically been fairly outspoken – respectful or otherwise – on anything, I think the time has come to be more of a passive observer. I say this because I doubt I have ever changed anyone’s mind through any kind of serious debate.
I have been following the psychology-based literature about transcendence in old age, with a close eye on the theory of gerotranscendence (GT), which has elements of self-transcendence and cosmic transcendence, as championed by Swedish Psychologist Lars Tornstam, who came up with the theory in the 1980s. I identify closely with Tornstam’s theory and have previously wrote about it. GT is a fascinating aging-related topic.
Could it be said that the secret to a productive life, at any age, is one devoted to being as authentic to who you honestly believe you are inside for the longest span of your days alive? Is the key to living a productive life discovered by finding the right balance between what’s acceptable to survive from the perspective of your soul and what you find minimally acceptable to survive from the perspective of guaranteeing you have adequate (and preferably exceedingly comfortable) food-clothing-and-shelter?
One can easily get lost in all the articles and books about aging. I’ve been trying, with little luck, to narrow down my focus to mostly four topics listed in this blog’s title: “the philosophy, psychology, sociology and spirituality of aging.” It’s obviously a wide spectrum. So, to narrow things down, I started looking specifically into one area, psychology.
As I have noted in a good number of previous posts, early old age, which varies for some, ranging anywhere from 45 to 65, brings lots of consternation about who you really are and what you are doing with yourself in work and elsewhere. You come to an intersection where you think more deeply about where your compass is pointing, and it’s almost like going back in time to when you were first trying to figure out what you were going to do with your life.