DISCERNING LIFE'S QUESTIONS

ACCORDING TO JUNG

How comfortable are you with questions that have no answer? The psychologist Carl Jung suggested, “The greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble.” There are questions in life that can never be solved — only outgrown. This ‘outgrowing’, observed Jung, consists of a new level of consciousness.

In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, Jung wrote,

"The meaning of my existence is that life has addressed a question to me. Or, conversely, I myself am a question which is addressed to the world, and I must communicate my answer, for otherwise, I am dependent upon the world’s answer."

Carl Jung

The writer Alan Watts suggested people get fouled up because they want the world to have meaning as words do. As if your meaning connects to a mere word or you were something that could be looked up in a dictionary. “You are meaning,” stressed Watts.

Similarly, the psychologist Viktor Frankl insisted we should not ask what the meaning of his life is but rather must recognize that it is us who are asked. “In a word, everyone is questioned by life, and they can only answer to life by answering for their own life.”

What is life questioning you?

Although even if we discover life’s questions it does not mean we can ever have complete certainty of the answer. Jung explained, “Psychological or spiritual development always requires a greater capacity for anxiety and ambiguity.” Likewise, the theologian Thomas Merton suggested that we don’t need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. All we need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and embrace them.

How comfortable are you with not knowing?

Jung observed,

“I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, and outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking.”

Carl Jung

Finding meaning requires us to listen for and navigate life’s questions. While at the same time accepting the notion that many of life’s questions have no answer.

To quote Jung a final time: 

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”

Carl Jung

CONTRIBUTOR

JOSHUA BERTOLOTTI

As a contributor to The Walled Garden Philosophical Society, I explore, write, mentor, and find meaning and connection with this growing community of seekers and curious minds.

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