Saturday, 30 May 2009

Existential Vaccum Revisited

One of my favourite books of all time is Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Dr. Frankl, who founded the clinical psychological technique called logotherapy, was a resident at the Nazi-German's concentration camps during World War II. In the first part of the book, Dr. Frankl wrote about his observation of how some of his fellow inmates were able to withstand all the sufferrings while some others quite simply gave up, refused to try, and eventually die. Those who survived, according to Dr. Frankl, had one thing in common - they all had reasons to live and those reasons kept them alive no matter what.

In the second part of his book, Dr. Frankl explains what he believes to be a modern phenomenon - the existential vacuum. Dr. Frankl believes the reason why many people today are stressful and depressed is because they do not have a reason to live. Today, there are many who live their lives based on hedonistic principles where everyday is just like any other day to maximise pleasure and minimise stress. Not much thought is given on how one may contribute to more profound goals in live, and on how to carry one's responsiblities beyond the essential and necessary.

We are servants of God, children of our parents, parents to our children, members of our organisations etc. All these ought to give us many reasons to live to fill-up the existential vacuum which Dr. Frankl had explained.

Perhaps Dr. Frankl wasn't quite right to say that there is a vacuum. The reasons to live are there and they are part of our existence regardless of whether we know and understand them. Perhaps the real challenge is to be conscious of and internalise the right reasons to live. When a fanatical football fan kills himself when the team he supports loses a championship game, his problem is not that he does not have a reason to live. His problem was having the wrong reason for his existence.

My life today revolves almost entirely around my family. My children especially, are my reasons to live and persevere come whatever may. But sometimes I do wonder, is that a good enough reason to define my existence?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Floored By Mosquito

Last year, more than 40,000 dengue cases were reported in Malaysia with more than 100 dengue-related deaths. Worldwide, the total number of cases last year was estimated at more than 50 million cases. That was last year. This year, I am officially part of the statistics.

I had high fever exactly two weeks ago. At first, we thought it was just a normal fever, so I consumed the usual – panadols and antibiotics. When the fever did not subside after more than three days, I was asked to take a blood test. The result confirmed I had dengue fever.

Having dengue fever doesn't cause you much pain. But it sure does make you feel extremely uncomfortable. Your body becomes weak, your joints ache and you have no appetite to eat. Alhamdulillah (Praise to Allah), I didn’t have to endure it for long. I was hospitalised for five days, constantly given sodium chloride to boost my platelet level until my whole body was bloated with liquid; and now finally feel strong enough to resume normal daily activities.

What have I learned from this experience? Well, I learned first-hand how a tiny insect can floor an adult human being. And it added more to what I was made to realise since a few years back that you can only stretch your body so much. Once it breaks, you’ll be made to rue the times you wasted your health on.