Conferring the Meanings of One`s Own Life

Aristotle wrote that “Man is by nature a social animal.” Similarly, poet John Donne wrote, that “No man is an island entire of itself.” And there is, indeed, truth that we are connected to others, living in social contexts daily. Often we do things for others or the approval of others. We are prone to seeking validation through connection and relationships from others. The opinions of others often influences us and guides or prevents us from doing or saying things we would not otherwise do.

And, so it is, that we go through life being praised, complimented, validated, criticized, and corrected by others. There are many other opinions of who we are as individuals, as persons. But what of our own views of self and who we really are? How many others, whether family, friends, or workmates do you feel really know, understand, accept, and appreciate you as you likely or truly are?

If you have seen the classic movie Citizen Kane, you may recall that the reporter Thompson collects different opinions about who the reclusive millionaire really or essentially was. He is left finally with many jigsaw-like pieces (that resemble Susan’s large puzzles) each of them possibly true and significant, incidentally. But it is left to the lonely, weary old protagonist himself to sum up the personal meaning of his life as he once desired, lived, and loved it. He confers the meaning of his entire life in one word–a name, a single image.

We are mostly conscious of what others think and say about us, and what we say and think, often differently, about ourselves. The famous Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, concluded that, as individuals, we must answer for our own lives and find our own meanings through actions, values, suffering, and sacrifice. We each of us have the option of choosing and creating an “immortal footprint in the sands of time.”

And like Kane, we may have ‘the final say’, so to speak, in defining ourselves, the essence or significance of who we are, and the core personal, and perhaps privately understood, meanings of our own lives. Like him, we, too, may choose to confer the meanings of our own lives upon ourselves.


As in Emily Dickinson’s poem “The soul selects her own Society”, we, too, might ultimately come to know and understand the mystery and meaning of our own lives if we are blessed with understanding, luck, and opportunity via self-knowledge.

(Spoiler) “Rosebud”–the power of word, image, and memory. To be able to say concisely in one word what we essentially are or once were, what our lives meant, what our romantic innocent childhood dreams once were.

(Self-) knowledge and language. Memory and language. Consciousness and language. Meaning and language. Purpose and language. Dreams and language. And one could substitute the word “image’ in the above statements as easily. A life and Life boiled down to two things, two words, receptively and expressively–language (or word/s) and image. How could one know and understand oneself/one’s own life without the communication or expression via either?

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