Saturday, February 11, 2017

From My Reading, 2/11/17

from Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, by Viktor E. Frankl:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

*     *     *

I have been taking my reading extra-seriously these days. There was a time when I was younger that I let myself believe I did not have room to read "for pleasure." It took crisis to realize that reading was not, in fact, a luxury, but food for my heart and mind. I made the decision that there was room in my life for books more than twenty years ago, and sure there are lean times, but I no longer have qualms about calling reading essential. Through the years you might have been able to find me reading while nursing babies, while knitting, while stirring pots of things-that-need-constant-stirring on the stove. Sometimes my head drops into the book on my pillow at night before I've read even a page, and sometimes these days I have trouble keeping the book propped open well enough to read on the treadmill. It does not matter, though; I am finding nourishment, even if it is in tiny bits. Plus, I get to meet the most amazing people through their books. Last week I got to know Viktor Frankl, and while I was familiar with some of his ideas, I needed to hear them more deeply.  Things like the passage above. And like this:

I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, "homeostasis," i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

I was also stunned by passages like this one:

For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actualized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for all. We have rescued it into the past wherein it has been safely delivered and deposited. In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.

There is poetry in there, don't you think? And maybe enough strength for the day?

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