Man’s Search for Meaning

This is an except from “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl (part one “Experiences in a Concentration Camp”). It’s made a huge impact on me. That’s why I decided to share, maybe it will be “interesting” and useful to you.

God knows, I was not in the mood to give psychological explanations or to preach any sermons—to offer my comrades a kind of medical care of their souls. I was cold and hungry, irritable and tired, but I had to make the effort and use this unique opportunity. Encouragement was now more necessary than ever.
So I began by mentioning the most trivial of comforts first. I said that even in this Europe in the sixth winter of the Second World War, our situation was not the most terrible we could think of. I said that each of us had to ask himself what irreplaceable losses he had suffered up to then. I speculated that for most of them these losses had really been few. Whoever was still alive had reason for hope. Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune, position in society—all these were things that could be achieved again or restored. After all, we still had all our bones intact. Whatever we had gone through could still be an asset to us in the future. And I quoted from Nietzsche: “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker.” (That which does not kill me, makes me stronger.)
Then I spoke about the future. I said that to the impartial the future must seem hopeless. I agreed that each of us could guess for himself how small were his chances of survival. I told them that although there was still no typhus epidemic in the camp, I estimated my own chances at about one in twenty. But I also told them that, in spite of this, I had no intention of losing hope and giving up. For no man knew what the future would bring, much less the next hour. Even if we could not expect any sensational military events in the next few days, who knew better than we, with our experience of camps, how great chances sometimes opened up, quite suddenly, at least for the individual. For instance, one might be attached unexpectedly to a special group with exceptionally good working conditions—for this was the kind of thing which constituted the “luck” of the prisoner.
But I did not only talk of the future and the veil which was drawn over it. I also mentioned the past; all its joys, and how its light shone even in the present darkness. Again I quoted a poet—to avoid sounding like a preacher myself —who had written, “Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der Welt Dir rauben.” (What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.) Not only our experiences, but all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have had, and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it is past; we have brought it into being. Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.
Then I spoke of the many opportunities of giving life a meaning. I told my comrades (who lay motionless, although occasionally a sigh could be heard) that human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and dying, privation and death. I asked the poor creatures who listened to me attentively in the darkness of the hut to face up to the seriousness of our position. They must not lose hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity and its meaning. I said that someone looks down on each of Experiences in a Concentration Camp 91 us in difficult hours—a friend, a wife, somebody alive or dead, or a God—and he would not expect us to disappoint him. He would hope to find us suffering proudly—not miserably—knowing how to die.
And finally I spoke of our sacrifice, which had meaning in every case. It was in the nature of this sacrifice that it should appear to be pointless in the normal world, the world of material success. But in reality our sacrifice did have a meaning. Those of us who had any religious faith, I said frankly, could understand without difficulty. I told them of a comrade who on his arrival in camp had tried to make a pact with Heaven that his suffering and death should save the human being he loved from a painful end. For this man, suffering and death were meaningful; his was a sacrifice of the deepest significance. He did not want to die for nothing. None of us wanted that.
The purpose of my words was to find a full meaning in our life, then and there, in that hut and in that practically hopeless situation. I saw that my efforts had been successful. When the electric bulb flared up again, I saw the miserable figures of my friends limping toward me to thank me with tears in their eyes.

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Dancing in the rain

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

I’m back. I missed you all and I’m glad I have possibility to write again!

If you remember I was going to risk a bit for a sake of moving to another country. I was going to move out from my apartment, take all my stuff and go to another town for taking my visa without even knowing if it’s issued. Next day I was going to have a flight. But as always you never can predict all possible ways. Invitation that I needed for applying for visa didn’t came in time, it was sent by overnight express, but instead of getting here in 2 days it took 6 days :). It traveled almost all Europe and by tracking system after delivering to my country even came back to the previous country. How many more signs do I need :)? So, I let go this opportunity and stay here for a while.

I moved to another town, that’s why I was absent for a while. Here I have much better work and life opportunities. And I’m happy that I finally move forward, I’m happy that I moved out from the apartment where I have so much memories connected to John and where I was stuck for a while. I still need to live with Andrew because of money issues, but as soon as I get new job and have stable income nobody can stop me :).

I have some things to learn why I’m still living with him though. Like how not to be upset when he is aggressive and negative. Some while ago in such kind of situations I would join him and become aggressive myself, now I learned how to recognize first impulse to switch to this wave. It’s an amazing feeling when you stop and understand that there is no sense for arguing, when you stop emotions and see everything clearly. When you are emotional you see that you are right, that somebody is offending you and you need to fight for it, but when your mind is clear you see someones pain, and when this person is screaming at you, you see that he/she is in pain. That this person is hurting… And you see that topic of arguing is usually empty, it’s all about something different, deeper. And sometimes you just want to hug this person and say that everything is going to be alright, that I hear you.

But my problem is that I’m getting upset in such kind of situations and I would like to learn how to handle it better. Because if somebody is choosing to be negative, to be aggressive, why should I let myself down. It’s my life and if I choose to be happy today, I can do it. Everything is irrelevant. My problems, almost all everyday problems are stupid. They don’t worth even mentioning. Because tomorrow they won’t matter at all, they are small and insignificant. I read “Experiences in a Concentration Camp” by Viktor Frankl yesterday. Everyone should read this book in my opinion. Comparing to what he describes my problem of not having a job and living with person I don’t really want to live with is so stupid. Really. I can change my life every moment, I have so many possibilities to do it and all I need is time. I’m healthy, smart, young and free. What do I need more?

I know that tomorrow I may think different for some time and maybe I’ll be upset over something stupid, but it is direction to move to, it is something I want to reach. It’s a process, I get that. My goal is to be happy without depending on external circumstances, to be happy just because I have new brand day every morning and I’m alive.

Taking things for granted

During all this week my water heater was behaving very strange. It was turning off every couple of minutes, sometimes even more often. So all my showers were very fast and half cold (often I needed to go to the kitchen to turn heater in the middle of shower :)). Today landlord finally got it fixed and I could enjoy hot shower as long as I want. I don’t remember appreciating it so much for a long time. It’s so amazing to take a shower and don’t worry about anything… But a weak ago, when I had no problems with hot water I would take it for granted. So the bottom line is – it would be great if we could appreciate more simple everyday things that we have…  I’m going to try!

One definition of love…

Love is difficult to define, and there maybe different definitions. But one definition of love, and perhaps the most pure and exalted kind of love, is an utter, absolute, and unqualified wish for the other’s happiness of another individual. ~Howard Cutler

How many of us think that when they find love they will find something for themselves, like happiness, harmony, somebody will make our life complete, fill “hole” inside, save us from loneliness through giving Us attention, kindness, affection, love, endearment. But actually main point of love is to give. Genuinely wish somebody happiness, to give all those things first of all. Love is not to take, but to give. So simple notion, but so deeply unknown…

The sight of the stars makes me dream…

I mentioned before (https://whiteeecrow.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/finally/) that I was about to refuse one of offers for “moving abroad”. But when we started talking with employee, everything got sorted out and we decided to proceed. So, in two weeks I should be there. Of course there are a lot of difficulties, for example I need to move out from apartment and with all my baggage go to another town where I need to pick up my visa and till that moment I don’t even know if it is issued :). No way to do it differently. And next day I already have a flight… So, if something goes wrong, it leaves me in another town, with all my baggage and without apartment. But you know what? I don’t care. I decided that in case some problems appear, I will just stay in that town or move to another one, anyway I have no reason to come back here (I wasn’t going to live here for long time).  I’m considering it like a small adventure. There is no reason to worry, because it won’t help, but it can take away part of my life where I can be happy.

I’m glad that soon I will start new period of my life, though old one was full of useful experiences, it wasn’t easy time and it connected to John in my mind as it started with him and because of his presence in my life.

I couldn’t imagine half a year ago that I’ll be standing where I’m now and will be so calm about all uncertainty that waits me ahead. But we can’t control everything. And without it life would be probably boring.

p.s. I would appreciate if you send me some positive energy “for luck” :)

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” ~Vincent van Gogh

The art of happiness

Excerpts from “The art of happiness” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.

Sometimes when I meet old friends, it reminds me how quickly time passes. And it makes me wonder if we’ve utilized our time properly or not. Proper utilization of time is so important. While we have this body, and especially this amazing human brain, I think every moment is something precious. Our day-to-day existence is very much alive with hope, although there is no guarantee of our future. There is no guarantee that tomorrow at this time we will be here. But still we are working for that purely on the basis of hope. So, we need to make the best use of our time. I believe that the proper utilization of time is this:  if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.

So, let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities – warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful – happier.

*****

I think that this is the first time I am meeting most of you. But to me, whether it is an old friend or new friend, there’s not much difference anyway, because I always believe we are the same; we are all human beings. Of course, there may be differences in cultural background or way of life, there may be differences in our faith, or we may be of a different color, but we are human beings, consisting of the human body and the human mind. Our physical structure is the same, and our mind and our emotional nature are also the same. Wherever I meet people, I always have the feeling that I am encountering another human being, just like myself. I find it is much easier to communicate with others on that level. If we emphasize specific characteristics, like I am Tibetan or I am Buddhist, then there are differences. But those things are secondary. If we can leave the differences aside, I think we can easily communicate, exchange ideas, and share experiences.

*****

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. We all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…

Solitude

So many stones have been thrown at me,
That I’m not frightened of them anymore,
And the pit has become a solid tower,
Tall among tall towers.
I thank the builders,
May care and sadness pass them by.
From here I’ll see the sunrise earlier,
Here the sun’s last ray rejoices.
And into the windows of my room
The northern breezes often fly.
And from my hand a dove eats grains of wheat…
As for my unfinished page,
The Muse’s tawny hand, divinely calm
And delicate, will finish it.

June 6, 1914, Slepnyovo

Anna Akhmatova