THE SEARCH FOR MEANING
There – I’m dealing with S and T in one blog – sneaky eh? Did R twice, so this is my way of getting back on the Alphabetical path.
Viktor Emil Frankl, in Man’s Search For Meaning, one of the world’s most influential books– yes, I’ve ordered it – said that it isn’t what we expect from life, it’s what life expects from us, that’s important.
He cautions to stop asking the meaning of life, but asks us to imagine ourselves being questioned by life on an hourly and daily basis. Our actions and conduct must reflect integrity, taking responsibility for our actions, finding answers to our problems, fulfilling whatever task life throws our way.
Viktor was speaking from experience – the most horrible situation in which anyone could ever find themselves – Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where every minute of life hung in the balance between death or torture.
He described the stages a victim was likely to progress after incarceration, from shock, through apathy, to depersonalization, bitterness and despair. Yet he discovered meaning in these dire circumstances, believing that a friend or God was looking over him. This love, he declared, and love alone, brought hope, the key to survival.
Even in the midst of brutality, he glimpsed beauty, the pink light of morning, lighting up a dark bank of clouds, memory of his wife’s smile, more luminous than the sun.
Unsurprisingly, freedom didn’t immediately bring happiness. It was a process. Numbness and depersonalization needed to be worked through, unable to throw off the feeling that they would waken and find it all a dream, an illusion. Gardens and flowers and free will, walking among ordinary people, seemed surreal. Freedom brought somatic needs – a huge appetite and need for sleep. Emotional fetters took longer to discard than physical restraints. Gradually people overcame feelings of disillusionment and bitterness towards humanity.
Worst of all, said Viktor, was the chilling realization that nobody awaited to greet them. The loving arms that he had imagined were no more; the others had perished in Hitler’s gas chambers.
Even as we remember victims of the holocaust, struggling to prevent such atrocities happening again, horrible events continue in Egypt, Syria, the Ukraine, Russia, China, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan…
What’s wrong with humans, supposedly the most intelligent animals on earth, yet having this terrible propensity for destruction? Will we ever learn to live in peace and harmony?