This may be one of the more intense things you read today. I know it is one of the more intense posts I have written in a while. I hope by the time we leave each other today, you will be inspired to look at the world in an entirely different way. The above picture is the outside of a concentration camp from World War II. It still blows my mind how humans can sink to this level of evil towards their fellow human beings. To have a total disregard for the extreme value of human life is beyond me. As you all know, I believe each one of us have a unique gift to bring to the world and a loss of even just one life is too many.
There were so many families that were torn about. Generations that were eliminated from existence in these terrible places. Above is a picture of one man who lived through this nightmare. His name is Viktor Frankl. He was from Austria. As a medical student studying to be a phycologist, he was concerned with the high rate of teen suicide at the time. He set up free clinics in his town that were made available to those who needed them. In 1931, there were no teen suicides thanks in great part to the role of this man. You would think such a caring soul and brilliant mind would be treasured and his programs expanded upon. Sadly, in 1938 Austria became part of the Nazi empire.
In 1942 Viktor married the love of his life. Only nine months later, his entire family were sent to the concentration camp. His father died of starvation. His mother and brother were killed in the gas chamber. His wife died of typhus. Viktor spent 3 long years in the camps. While in there, he practiced what he called logotherapy. One of the aspects of which is that meaning plays a central motivating factor and force in one’s life. He also stated that people find meaning in one of three ways. Making a difference in the world, having particular experiences, or by adopting particular attitudes.
The quote above is a great encapsulation of the book Man’s Search for Meaning. While living in deplorable conditions. Even witnessing the death of his father, his mother, his brother and his wife, Viktor found beauty. Even while being treated as less than human, he found beauty. How on earth was this even possible? One, he was determined that his circumstances, no matter how extremely hellacious they were, would not determine his attitude. He refused to let the evil captures dictate how he was to think. The last freedom, as he stated above, that he had left. He also found beauty in the most extreme situations. One of the examples I found gut-wrenching, yet oddly inspiring, was his story about his soup. The prisoners were given a daily broth of potato water that was somehow supposed to sustain them. One day, while looking in his bowl, he found a potato peel. He celebrated this turn of good fortune as if he had won the lottery. My friend Linda, remembered a story where he saw sunlight shining through a piece of glass and enjoyed the beauty of that.
Man’s Search for Meaning is a book that at once details the unspeakable depths that man can sink to, but also the resilience of the human spirit and will. Everyone should read this book. I think I will do so again shortly. What really stands out to me is, when determined, a man could find beauty in a living hell. When I start to complain about aspects of my life, I think of Victor Frankl. If he could find a beautiful life in the most deplorable conditions, then my inability to find beauty in my own life has less to do with my circumstances and more to do with my attitude.