Write Again…Man’s search for meaning

Published 5:06 pm Thursday, April 18, 2024

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Friends and readers, lend me your most precious possession: time.

Today I’m going to share with you a bit about a man, and about his thought processes, and emotional journey during a time of inexplicable hardship. A hardship and suffering no man or beast should ever have to endure. Yet millions did.

His name was Viktor E. Frankl. Much of his story I gleaned from his little book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It was first published in 1959, with numerous additional publications to follow over the years.

To begin. He was born in 1905, and died in 1997. He was one of the very few “lucky” ones. He lived in Vienna until the Holocaust.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.

“Based on his own experience and the stories of his patients . . .the heart of his theory was known as logotherapy, which is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure but pursuit of what we find meaningful.”

Let me, now, cite just a dollop of his philosophy. I’ll attempt no explication, for I’m not smart enough to do so. (You know, to know thyself is the foundation stone of knowledge.)

While in one of the camps he related an experience that occurred when he was at work in a trench:

“The dawn was grey around us; grey was the sky above; grey the snow in the pale light of dawn; grey the rags in which my fellow prisoners were clad; grey their faces. I was again conversing silently with my wife, or perhaps I was struggling to find the reason for my sufferings, my slow dying.

In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious Yes in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose.

“At that moment a light was lit in a district farmhouse which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. ‘Et lux in teneboris lucet’ -and the light shineth in the darkness.

“For hours I stood hacking at the icy ground. The guard passed by insulting me, and once again I communed with my beloved.
“More and more I felt that she was present, that she was with me. I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, able to stretch out my hand and grasp hers.

The feeling was very strong: she was ‘there’.
“Then at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me . . . and looked steadily at me.”

Yet Viktor Frankl’s wife had died – gassed, incinerated, and risen through the chimneys on the second day of their incarceration.

She was with him still. May it be so in eternity.