Friday, July 16, 2010

Time and Again

"He who has a why to live, can live with almost any how."

Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, was a survivor of Holocaust in 1940s. In 1946, he wrote a book titled Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager, which, for decades later, was more widely known for its English version, Man's Search for Meaning. In his book, he wrote his experiences in the concentration camp, even extended to the life after he survived -the sufferings, the tragedies, the grieves, the anxiousness, the hopelessness, but much more than that is how he then finally discover his meaning in life in helping his fellow ex-inmates finding theirs.

Now, without believing in any of his psychological theories or philosophy, what he wrote about his experiences still speak to me. I guess we all can still bring his thoughts into our own context. And once again, for the umpteenth time, I was amazed by this foundational reason which answers the questions of every human being about why life, even without anything in it, is meaningful. Do read about what he had to reflect on one of his experiences:

"... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."

Well, not to my surprise, what he had to say in short is that everything comes back to love. It is love that gives life a meaning, a sense of purpose. Love is the reason we are all here, and the reason of why life needs to keep moving on, and can be moving on. Because we are loved with a perfect and unconditional love. Which, by then, we can love. Let us not lose sight of what is really important in this life; because anything else can be taken out of your life, and you can always bounce back, but not love.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13:13