Aging — finding purpose and meaning to life

Bill Ivans Gbafore
5 min readSep 9, 2022
Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash

Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside of us, unplayed.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

In his 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl examined the experiences of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, their responses to pain and torture, and how identifying a purpose, reason to live, or something to be positive about became a psychotherapeutic method of endurance for survival when faced with hallowing experiences. Since I read that book, the philosophy of purpose, reason, and meaning to life has brought me face-to-face with myself many times for reckoning, and was reinforced a few days ago I listened to a Podcast from City Arts & Lectures featuring Ocean Vuong on his journey as a writer, a migrant, Asian-American, and his book On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous. In the dialogue Ocean explored meaningful themes over an hour including conversations on time, memory, identity, belonging, war, violence, desperation, hope, love, loss, death, then language and words. Of many things, Ocean shared his struggles making it through college to become a doctor or lawyer as his family hoped. His family perceived him as a migrant from war-torn Vietnam ushered into the arms of the great United States with opportunities to pursue a well-paying career, lift himself out of poverty, and pull his family up the economic ladder by firstly earning a college degree. Against their expectations he dropped out of college because he was a terrible student, never told his mother who continually bragged about him to customers and friends in a salon she worked at, then walked up to another college and said ‘I want to become a poet’ and surely did after many years. Language and words were the only things that gave Ocean a sense of ‘being’ as a human, and he decided to live this purpose by cultivating his talent and art of storytelling. Though he failed his family at academics and the quest of pursuing a seemingly golden career, he found his passion, his purpose, his why, and took audacious steps towards living his life meaningfully, and pursuing what sets his soul on fire.

Like Ocean and survivors from Nazi concentration camps, at the crux of our lives exist many questions on being, our existence, and the future as we go through different phases of our lives. I am writing this because I have a birthday this month and…

Bill Ivans Gbafore

Bibliophile, Lover of Culture, Arts, Economics, and Lifestyle