The Concept of Self-Transcendence

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Life is full of obstacles that thwart one’s ability to discover the true meaning of existence. In The Unheard Cry for Meaning, psychologist Viktor Frankl explains that “An eye with a cataract may see something like a cloud, which is its cataract; an eye with glaucoma may see its glaucoma as a rainbow halo around the lights. A healthy eye sees nothing of itself – it is self-transcendent.” The concept of self-transcendence requires one to overcome the different “cataracts” of life, and ultimately view the world through an altruistic perspective. When one conquers the notion of seeing “nothing of itself”, one can comprehend the true meaning to living a full and healthy life. In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the main character Gregor Samsa has lost himself in his continuous world of routine, in which his grueling profession takes away from his ability to recognize the components that make life meaningful. Thus, his job is the “cataract” that disables him from truly living, and keeps him from establishing relationships with those around him and wholly expressing his creativity. Gabriel Conroy experiences similar feelings of disillusionment in James Joyce’s The Dead. Gabriel lives in a “cloud” of misperceptions, and constantly suffers from obsessive misinterpretations of how others perceive him. As a result, Gabriel possesses a close-minded and defensive attitude, which affects his ability to experience true love and wholly appreciate his life. Gregor’s obsession with his job, and Gabriel’s constant fear of being judged by others, hinder their abilities to reach self-transcendence. Once they break these barriers, they learn to possess this theory of self-transcendence, and ultimately seek to espy the true essence of life.

Gregor’s physical transformation “into a monstrous vermin” (Pg. 3) frees him from the distractions and obligations that permeate his mindset, such as his responsibilities to earn money, pay off his parent’s debt, and support his family. Prior to his metamorphosis, Gregor is so preoccupied with his “grueling profession” (Pg. 4), that it prevents him from “ever becoming anything closer than acquaintances” (Pg. 4) with the different individuals in his life. After his metamorphosis, Gregor is able to build a relationship with an object to create a link with humanity that his life is lacking. The picture of the beautiful woman exemplifies Gregor’s desire to create a relationship to feed his hunger for love, and the picture’s frame symbolizes the amount of creativity that Gregor possesses within himself. The picture, which Gregor “had recently cut out of a glossy magazine and lodged in a pretty gilt frame…showed a lady done up in a fur hat and fur boa, sitting upright and raising up against the viewer a heavy fur muff in which her whole forearm had disappeared” (pg. 3). Gregor is frustrated that his job never allows “relationships to last or get more intimate” (Pg. 4), and is distressed that the individuals in his life come and go without making any sort of impact on his life. Therefore, the woman in the photo may depict Gregor’s desire for love, and his desire to form a meaningful relationship with someone that is important to him. Gregor spends “Two or three evenings” (Pg. 11) carving a “gilt” or gold lined frame for the picture because it temporarily relives him from his desolation. The care that Gregor expresses toward the frame is shown by the degree to which he pays attention to every minor detail while crafting it. In addition, the time he spends carving the frame also reveals how important the picture is to him. Though he is not conscious of the reason why he values the picture so much, Gregor deeply cherishes the picture because it momentarily enables him to escape his solitude, and experience the love and creativity that he longs for. Music is the creative art form that enables Gregor to rekindle his love for his sister Grete, and also provides Gregor with unknown nourishment that satisfies the need...
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