I just finished Mitch Albom’s latest novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It’s small book and took me only a day to read. It follows in a long line of novels and psychological pop writings that serve to re-assure people that their ordinary lives are, in fact, pretty extraordinary. These writings tend to follow some basic premises: 1) God works in mysterious ways; 2) There are no accidents; and 3) We are all connected.
While I enjoyed the book and the light heartedness of it’s theme, it’s conclusions are bizarre. There is a light side to it though. The lighter side is important point of how people we never know have impacts on our lives – and us on theirs. It made me think about who would be waiting for me. I know the people I would wish to be there. I do wonder how many lives I’ve influenced over the year – positive and negative.
Maybe the market for books like this (I bought it, after all) speaks to a spiritual emptiness that we are longing to fill. The idea that suffering is somehow justified has never worked for me. I accept the most basic of all Buddhist teachings – life is suffering. Buddhists do not, however, teach that suffering is a part of God’s plan and that it is all happening for a reason that is just not comprehensible to mere mortals. Okay, I’m rambling, but it’s true. Life is suffering, not because anyone intends it to be, it just is.
One of the greatest findings in psychoanalysis is that the underlying reason for psychosis is feeling helpless. Most people just don’t feel very important. I’m not sure why feeling important has such a deep impact, but it does. For Freud, feeling important was satisfied by sex. For Adler, it was power. For Jung, it was a connectedness to the universe. These are all methods attempting to pump some air into a seriously deflated ego. Ego is like the architectural super-structure that keeps everything together. When you ego becomes unsure and you start feeling unimportant it’s not going to take much to bring down your whole building.
I was talking about a book a minute ago, wasn’t I? Anyway, if reading this book makes you feel more important, that’s great. You’re taking care of yourself … and I can’t think of anything better than that. Here is the final message: You’re life has meaning and it is important because you impact other people. Even if you don’t feel it’s important, it is.