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When speaking on the topic of life, and the importance of vital values for oneself, one cannot avoid mentioning the era of enlightenment and the legendary German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. In an essay in which he gave the definition of the term “enlightenment,” he scrutinized the problem and provided his reasonable opinion on how the issue of ignorance can be resolved. According to Fleischacker, “Kant tells us in the opening line of the essay that enlightenment is the exit of human beings from their self-incurred immaturity” (13).
First, it is important to understand that the opposite of enlightenment is not a state of ignorance, but an emotive dimness, a state of irresponsibility. In order to cure this immaturity, one has to take responsibility for his or her own knowledge and not by simply acquiring information. Second, human immaturity is self-inflicted, and the way to overcome it is an act that must be performed by an individual himself. Other people cannot enlighten you – therefore, you must enlighten yourself. An entire society can move toward enlightenment, if only it allows freedom of expression. One can see that enlightenment is a moral act, for Kant – indeed a moral obligation (Fleischacker 16).
The act of enlightenment is closely connected with the phenomenon of a meaningful life. What does it mean to live a meaningful life? There are a number of values that allow an individual to live a meaningful life: health, relationships, passions, growth, and contribution. Happiness also plays an important part in living a meaningful life. Happiness is achieved internally, through living a life that is filled with passion and freedom, a life in which one can grow and contribute to others in meaningful ways. It is of the essence to remember that only happiness gives an individual the feeling of living meaningfully, not just material things (Millburn and Nicodemus 48).
A meaningful life can also be defined as an individual’s signature strengths and virtues being used in the service of something much larger than that individual. What is important to understand is that meaning in life is described as a flexible point that delivers the circumstances from which contentment ascends, and may subsidize the basis of overall pleasure, which in turn is individual well-being. The meaning in life is continuously, positively associated with life satisfaction – a component/part of subjective well-being (Santos et al. 34).
There are numerous other opinions on what might be the essential ingredients to a meaningful life. Johnson, for example, claims that “love and work are the two essential ingredients” (147). His explanation relies on the fact that, for many people, work takes up the largest proportion of their day-to-day lives. Consequently, if it is not satisfying and meaningful, then they are spending the greatest part of their time involved in an activity that is not making them happy.
By contrast, when people’s work and leisure activities are meaningful and congruent with their inner values, they tend to feel alive and purposeful. According to Blanc, “the sense of dignity, importance, and belonging are essential ingredients to a meaningful life and can help prevent the onset of depression” (25). There is also an idea that meaning is the key component for maximizing one’s potential. The question of well-being is one of the classical questions in philosophy. Søraker and Brey, in their research on well-being in society, stated that “for a meaningful life, engaging in meaningful activities is central as it leads to the experience of ample subjective well-being” (63).
The author of the essay believes that most of the nonmaterialistic values make up the pillars of a meaningful life. This means that, overall, an individual does not need money, cars, or expensive clothes to live a meaningful life. On the contrary, people may become upset when they reach their goal and start dealing with stresses they were not originally expecting. The majority of people break down when their dream becomes reality because consciously, they were ready for the failure, but unconsciously, they were not ready for success.
The number of life changes puts additional pressure on the individual and generates an undesirable crushing effect, instead of providing motivation to move further and celebrate achievement. In today’s race for accomplishments, the idea is that it is vital for an individual not to lose common sense, and to remember the everyday values that bring happiness, and not materialistic objects.
The author also claims that the values described above in detail are the key elements driving the act of enlightenment, which is only going to happen when an individual’s mind is free. Freedom gives the ability to be happy and understand and appreciate values and exposes an individual’s feelings of delight and satisfaction. It is also imperative to understand that an individual’s dissatisfaction with his or her life may be the result of immaturity and, as stated in Kant’s philosophical postulate, one can only escape it by applying individual effort and hard work.
Blanc, Margaret M. Returning to the Source: Using Mindfulness and Depth Psychology to Transform Symptoms of Depression. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, Umi Dissertatio, 2012. Print.
Fleischacker, Samuel. What Is Enlightenment? London: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Johnson, Rick. Spirituality in Counseling and Psychotherapy: An Integrative Approach that Empowers Clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Print.
Millburn, Joshua, and Ryan Nicodemus. Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life. Columbia, MO: Asymmetrical, 2011. Print.
Santos, Maria Cristina J., Cipriano Magramo, Jr., Faustino Oguan, Jr., Junnile Paat, and El Anelio Barnachea. “Meaning in Life and Subjective Well-being: Is a Satisfying Life Meaningful?” Researchers World 3.4 (2012): 32-40. Web.
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Søraker, Johnny H., and Philip Brey. Well-being in Contemporary Society. Berlin: Springer, 2014. Print.