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HouseWifeMafia.com ~ The eMagazine For Women
THE WAY I SEE IT  
by
Holly Whitman
Copyright 2007 Holly Whitman

The Second Path to Happiness:
The Meaning of Love
Love – Elusive, confounding, simple, and complex.

What can be more confusing than love, with its myriad forms and
manifestations? Yet, love is the crux of Viktor Frankl’s second path to
finding meaning in life and, thus, happiness;  
“The second way of
finding meaning in life is by experiencing something – such as
goodness, truth and beauty ... or, last but not least, by
experiencing another human being … by loving him
(Man’s
Search For Meaning, Frankl, 1985, page134
).”

Frankl goes on to say that it is only through love that we can grasp and
become fully aware of the very essence of another human being. When
we love others, we can see certain traits and features in them. More
important, we can also see unrealized potential and, through our love,
make the person aware of what he or she can and should become and
ultimately enable him or her to make
“these potentialities come true
(Frankl, 1985, page 134).”

For the first eight years that I knew the man who later became my
husband, we were “just friends.” Although I had romantic relationships with
others, he was like a brother to me, always my best friend, the one I could
really talk to, the one I pondered life’s greatest mysteries with. Love was a
topic we explored often; it baffled us as we tried to probe and pick it
apart, desperately wanting to understand what it was and how it worked.

I remember trying to find girlfriends for him, and sharing our juiciest
stories, never imagining we were each the person the other was seeking.
In retrospect, it is amazing to realize that what we were really sharing was
love. All I knew at the time was that, somehow,  his friendship made me
stronger and my life easier; when I was with him, I knew everything was
going to be alright. He was the first person to actively believe in me and
through his faith, I became something much greater than I was when he
first found me. I was healed.

In textbook discussions about love, there are many different categories
listed, as if there are many different varieties of love;
two common categories are agape, platonic in nature and more
concerned with the well-being of others, and Eros, sexual love.
Frankl states that love is “as primary a phenomenon as sex…love is not
understood as a mere side-effect of sex; rather, sex is a way of
expressing the experience of that ultimate togetherness which is called
love (Frankl, 1985, page 134).” In this sense, I completely agree with
Frankl.
Love is its own category, and is felt and
expressed in endless ways that are non-sexual.
Some of the finest examples of love I have ever
witnessed have nothing whatsoever to do with sex
.

When teachers display phenomenal dedication to the goal of helping their
students truly grasp and understand subject matter, that is love. When
teachers go to bat for students applying for college with letters and
recommendations, that is love. Volunteers exhibit love through giving of
their time and energy to various causes that alleviate suffering for animals
or people. Soldiers sacrifice their own peace and security because of
love, not only for their families, but for their country and its principles. And
the ultimate love, which is considered most successful when the loved one
leaves to become fully independent, is that of parents for their children.

One human being whose capacity for love seemed endless, and whose
impact on me was tremendous, was Steve Irwin, otherwise known as The
Crocodile Hunter. My husband and son discovered this unique person on
Animal Planet years ago. Fascinated, they watched many episodes of
The Crocodile Hunter as he buoyantly demonstrated finesse in showing
us the wonders of the animal kingdom.

Since he came on the scene, there have been several imitators
attempting to grab attention, but they lack a key ingredient that set Steve
Irwin apart from all the rest – love. For Steve Irwin’s goal in all that he did
was not to garner attention for himself, but to engender appreciation, love,
and respect for animals most of us despise, in an effort to save them from
annihilation. His enthusiasm and zest for living sprang from a very deep
and empathetic love of creatures great and small, a characteristic learned
early in life from his loving parents.

I followed the adventures of Steve over the years. We went to the
Crocodile Hunter movie when it came out. We watched, one New Year’s
Eve, as a Crocodile Hunter marathon featured one deadly snake episode
after another, astounded that this guy continued to live yet another day to
show us the wonders of the animal kingdom.

Steve Irwin married, had children, and ran his amazing zoo in Australia,
always the same, humble and loving human being despite worldwide
notoriety. I was overwhelmed with genuine shock and grief last
September when a strange accident occurred – a stingray, buried in the
sand in a reef on the Australian coast, stabbed Steve in the chest with its
barb, ending his life. For, it seemed, a light went out and the world lost
something precious and amazing when he died.

But I underestimated Steve. Although his widow, Terri, could not speak of
him at first, it wasn’t long after his death that she agreed to an interview
with Barbara Walters, and in that interview, the depth of the love of Steve
Irwin became apparent.

I was deeply moved as Terri Irwin described how they met at his zoo,
spent time in a swamp, found that they shared a love of wildlife, and even
spent their honeymoon saving crocs. The way she spoke of him was more
telling than what she said. Amid smiles and tears, she brought us into her
world, letting us feel, for a few moments, the profound happiness and
excitement she experienced with her husband. “I never knew romance like
that existed,” she said, emotion welling in her voice and tears in her eyes.
“My prince is gone.”

Steve Irwin suspected that his life might be a short one, and he often
discussed this with his wife, making sure that she, the children, the zoo,
and Wildlife Warriors would be fine, even if he died. This man made every
day of his life count, sometimes setting up bright outdoor lights so that he
could continue working well past ten o’clock at night. When he had
children, he devoted himself to them as deeply as he did to his wife and
his life’s work with animals. His daughter, Bindi (named after his favorite
crocodile), was home-schooled and taught, as he had been by his
parents, to understand and handle what we consider dangerous
creatures. At age eight, Bindi fears nothing – not audiences, not
crocodiles, not snakes. She does her chores each day at the zoo and
sings and performs joyously and unself-consciously in front of audiences –
at the zoo, for television ads, and on television shows.

Bindi recently appeared on national television on several occasions when
she and her mother were touring the United States, sent here by the
Australian government to promote tourism in Australia. Every time Bindi
was interviewed, she spoke warmly, openly, and joyously of her love for
her father, how much she missed him, how much she wanted to be just
like him, and what a wonderful father he was.   Asked about crocodiles,
she stated unequivocally that, “they’re just the sweetest, gentlest, most
wonderful creatures….”

Bindi Irwin glows with the love her family has provided, an amazing
example of what a child can be when cared for and nurtured by two
confident, loving, healthy individuals. Her father’s love continues to
provide her with the strength she needs to step fully into life, exuberantly
expecting the best in a world made miraculous by her father.

Even in death, the love of Steve Irwin expands.
His Wildlife Warriors organization continues to promote understanding
and appreciation for all creatures poisonous and dangerous. His
daughter, infused with the love of a deeply devoted father and a strong,
wise mother, seems determined to continue the work of her father and
has not let his death ruin her life.
Regardless of how you might
personally feel about Steve Irwin, he has left a legacy that will
only continue to grow and impact the world in a variety of
positive ways.
His love, so far-reaching, even touched me, as well as
many others. What a wonderful legacy to leave this world!

One of the greatest benefits of giving love to others is the healing bonus
of getting to forget about ourselves and our petty annoyances and
unhappiness for awhile.
When we focus more on what
we can give or how we can make the world a
better place, we make a difference to those
receiving our gifts, and in those moments, we
are joyously unself-conscious as we experience
the effects of our actions.

Make no mistake – unselfishly giving something positive to a worthy
cause or another human being is a wonderful, healing act that will expand
endlessly. Those bumper stickers urging us to
“commit random acts
of kindness”
are really powerful words of wisdom that challenge us to
become greater than ourselves. People sometimes fear feeling drained
or losing something by giving in this way, but nothing could be further from
the truth. What we gain in the way of happiness and fulfillment is far
greater than anything we have given.

I wonder what it must have been like to be Steve Irwin; when I see the
eyes of his wife and his daughter, I can only imagine. But rather than
wonder, what would this world be like if more of us set out to discover for
ourselves what Steve Irwin seemed to know.   
 Just for today,
if we can set a goal to make one person smile, or to do
something we know will benefit someone else and make
their life better, we will have taken our first step toward
understanding what it was like to be Steve Irwin.

Maybe there’s someone else out there you would rather be like, and if so,
go for it. For now, I’ll settle for Steve’s example.
It’s a proven pathway to happiness.


The website for the Australian Zoo is a fascinating place to visit, with
interesting links. You can also join the Wildlife Warriors organization
through this site, at
http://www.australiazoo.com .


Coming next month…
Toss Toss Toss!


Please feel free to email questions or comments to Holly Whitman at
HollyWhitman@housewifemafia.com
I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human
poetry and human thought and belief have to impart:
The salvation of man is in love and through love.
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
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