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.

Forgiveness (Buddha)

The Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and spit on his face. He wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next? What do you want to say next?” The man was a little puzzled because he himself never expected that when you spit on somebody’s face, he will ask, “What next?” He had no such experience in his past.

He had insulted people and they had become angry and they had reacted. Or if they were cowards and weaklings, they had smiled, trying to bribe the man. But Buddha was like neither, he was not angry nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly. But just matter-of-factly he said, “What next?” There was no reaction on his part.

Buddha’s disciples became angry, they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much, and we cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it. Otherwise everybody will start doing things like this.”

Buddha said, “You keep silent. He has not offended me, but you are offending me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man who is throwing people off their track, a revolutionary, a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spit on me, he has spit on his notion. He has spit on his idea of me because he does not know me at all, so how can he spit on me?

“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind. I am not part of it, and I can see that this poor man must have something else to say because this is a way of saying something. Spitting is a way of saying something. There are moments when you feel that language is impotent: in deep love, in intense anger, in hate, in prayer. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do something. When you are angry, intensely angry, you hit the person, you spit on him, you are saying something. I can understand him. He must have something more to say, that’s why I’m asking, “What next?”

The man was even more puzzled! And Buddha said to his disciples, “I am more offended by you because you know me, and you have lived for years with me, and still you react.”

Puzzled, confused, the man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. When you see a Buddha, it is difficult, impossible to sleep again the way you used to sleep before. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He was trembling all over and perspiring. He had never come across such a man; he shattered his whole mind and his whole pattern, his whole past.

The next morning he was back there. He threw himself at Buddha’s feet. Buddha asked him again, “What next? This, too, is a way of saying something that cannot be said in language. When you come and touch my feet, you are saying something that cannot be said ordinarily, for which all words are a little narrow; it cannot be contained in them.” Buddha said, “Look, Ananda, this man is again here, he is saying something. This man is a man of deep emotions.”

The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”

Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. The Ganges goes on flowing, it is never the same Ganges again. Every man is a river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! The river has flowed so much. So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“And you also are new. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing at my feet, touching my feet. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it. Those two people, the man who spit and the man on whom he spit, both are no more. Come closer. Let us talk of something else.”

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!

to Valentina Serova

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that would not wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply – you knew how to wait –
No one else but you.

1941

Konstantin Simonov

One more goal

Mistakes are opportunities for learning. To condemn your brother for making mistakes is to pretend to be mistake free, which you are not. I have asked you before and I will ask you again: which one of you will throw the first stone?

You can release your brother from the judgment you would make of him within your own mind.  To release him is to love him, for it places him where love alone lies, beyond judgment of any kind. (Paul Ferrini)

I forgot to add very important goal to my list. The goal to forgive John for what he did. Actually this is very important one because without accomplishing  it I can’t really be in harmony with myself and surrounding.  Without it I can’t fully accept personal accountability for what I’m feeling. Everything I think, feel, say or do belongs to me. I am responsible for all of it (Paul Ferrini). Doesn’t matter what somebody does, I decide how I feel concerning it.  I don’t need to search for source of happiness in somebody, I won’t find it there. I can find it only inside. If we are incapable of finding peace in ourselves, it is pointless to search elsewhere.

Yes, I can’t get how he could go for his goal so long, be so sure about it, involve other people, make promises, plans, finally make promise to himself (!) never ever give up and then just feel like not doing it. I think I can’t ever understand it, but actually I don’t need to do it. I need to accept. I need to accept that he is different. He couldn’t do better because of his previous life experiences, dispositions, instincts etc. I never was in his shoes,  how can I know how was it for John?  It’s not wise try to understand him through my eyes, using my standpoints, my principles.

I need to forgive John for myself.  I respect myself too much to live with  offense, hate or any negative feeling to him.  I want to move forward without this heavy burden. It’s time to take responsibility for my own feelings and let others be responsible  for themselves.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, when you are ready to stop hurting for what someone else did. . . .

Forgiveness means changing the attitude of disappointment by canceling the expectations and allowing an attitude of unconditional love to flow out to yourself and to the person who disappointed you. You can only release yourself or another from one expectation at a time. We do this by changing the expectations into preferences. The preference states how we would have liked things to be. Forgiveness is a decision not to punish ourselves anymore for the wrongs of others or our own wrong doing. It is a decision to re-enter into the flow of life and love. (Edith Stauffer)

Something more…

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been. (Robert H. Schuller)

There is a moment in every person’s life when he/she thinks that out there should be more for this person. That all forgotten dreams still alive inside and they are waiting to be come true… Something that was so important at some life point and was forgotten because of daily routine or because of “maturity”. This moment for some people is the moment when they become happy, when they find their way again. And those people are not afraid to make changes, to change everything because they know that it’s not so scary like it seems or even if it’s really scary at first, they know that there are much more important things than fear and if you allow your fears to guide you on a daily basis you won’t be ever person you want to be. And it’s worst thing ever… Other people just scared too much or they are “too mature, too grown up”. They have too many duties to follow childish dreams. They have no time for that. They scare to lose what they have even if it’s not what they want. I wish I could share with all those people the feeling when you reach something really important, something that your soul really needed but you were scared to go for it at first and you overcame it, when you face your fears and become yourself, when you proud of yourself, when you feel that everything is possible, when you feel powerful despite the fact that you are only human being… We have chosen almost everything what we have in our lives. We make our lives by ourself.. It’s so beautiful thing to realize…