“The life of a man is a dubious experiment. It is a tremendous phenomenon only in numerical terms. Individually, it is so fleeting, so insufficient, that it is literally a miracle that anything can exist and develop at all.”
These words are the canvas upon which Carl Jung’s vivid, universally human portrait unfolded in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Though I first read this work over five years ago, I recently returned to it while reflecting upon my own experience.
A child of two dentists, I was born in Yerevan, Armenia immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. Toward the end of 1999, in the spirit of what Jung would dub an “experiment,” my parents and I emigrated to the United States. My first experience with insufficiency followed shortly thereafter, as my knowledge of two languages suddenly became inadequate for communication. At just 5 years old, I raced to reach the standards of students who grew up speaking the English language, and simultaneously I experienced an adolescent dichotomy — a fast transition from a little girl to an obligated young adult.
My insufficiency was short-lived. In this same race, I found a passion in writing as a means of self-expression. It’s easy to feel small in a big city, but over time, I found that writing provided a way for me to carve out a place for myself; in other words, putting down my thoughts allowed me to feel more permanent. In fact, I realize that if anything has created meaning in my life, made the uncertainties I’ve faced memorable, and atoned for any insufficiencies, it has been the opportunity to document my experience, read enough to end the day knowing more than I did yesterday, and connect to others by way of the ideas I may have contemplated but another put down.
Life is a dubious experiment, but without uncertainty it would be unimpressionable. Time is evanescent, but if it were permanent, no aftermath would result in history. Learning to appreciate these facets of the quotidian experience rather than existentially dismissing life as a fleeting entity is the first step to finding the meaning of life on an individual level. Yet even the greatest thinkers seem to be in an incessant pursuit of a holistic meaning to life; however, perhaps Jung’s so-called “tremendous phenomenon” only concerns itself with whatever makes someone’s life worth living. The act in which you find meaning doesn’t have to be your career — it can be a hobby in which you enjoy engaging. For me, writing is what makes me feel satisfied, accomplished, and confident about my role. What is it for you?