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Posts Tagged ‘open your eyes’

It has taken some time to get around to writing about this pocket-sized book, and that is because reading it once isn’t enough. Seeing as it has sold over 12 million copies, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is bound to be in one of your bookshelves. If it is, I highly recommend fishing it out and having a squiz (that’s Australian slang for ‘taking a look’). Otherwise locate a copy in the nearest (online or physical) bookstore and pop it into your shopping basket.

Viktor Frankl chronicles his experiences of surviving in concentration camps during WWII and writes about finding hope and meaning when humanity seems at its worst. He details his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning and explains three psychological phases of the concentration inmate’s reaction to this painful suffering.

The book is divided in two parts with a postscript added in 1984, ‘Experiences in a Concentration Camp,’ ‘Logotheraphy in a Nutshell’ and ‘The Case for a Tragic Optimism.’ I can’t say it was enjoyable reading about the horrors of camp life, the atrocities of the war and the degradation of fellow human beings. Nevertheless, this is an amazing testimony to the strength of human spirit and the tragic optimist who sees hope when utter despair and pain has broken so many others.

Frankl writes using an unusual combination of a personal and clinical style of writing, fostered by his practise as a psychoanalyst. He discusses his idea of meaning and explains his psychotherapeutic theory of logotheraphy.

In brief, according to logotheraphy meaning can be discovered by:
1. creating a work or doing a deed
2. experiencing something or encountering someone (such goodness, beauty, nature, culture, and loving someone)
3. the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day-to-day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment… One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.

There is so much I can share about this book; the way it made my heart swell sometimes, or choke back tears at other times. The spiritual strength and belief which blossomed despite the repeated attempts to crush it. The reality check and renewed appreciation for my own life. And the feeding of my hunger and longing to search for meaning and becoming a better person.

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It’s been a while since I have posted, but let me tell you it was worth the wait. I present to you a short story by my gorgeous sister. Next week I will review the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl.

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Layers of time eroded by my hands to reveal a piece of the past. Harsh sunlight exposing two skeletons imprisoned in an embrace. Feeling as though I am intruding on their privacy, I photograph the find. The exact date undiscernible as yet, an estimation of 4,000 years old. Awe lights up my face. To look upon these bones, unscathed by time, fills me with infinite thoughts, feelings, and emotions I cannot identify.

The surface of this land is lifeless. Beneath a blanket of red earth, a treasure trove awaits. It is difficult to comprehend the age of the earth, the millions of years for which life has existed, the millions of years that humans have existed. To grasp the insignificance of the individual gives me freedom. I am a microscopic part of the big picture, one person among the billions who have existed.

I realise sadly they will never be remembered. Their story, their love. Who are they? Imagination does not satisfy. I stare hungrily at the remains, thinking in some strange way that staring at them long enough would tell me what I need to know. The boundaries of time provide barriers almost too large to overcome.

I don’t notice him until he’s right beside me, a presence barely tangible against the attention held in my mind by the skeletons. I remember how to smile. Not a word is spoken, he hands me an object and leaves. I get back to work. Slow, steady work. As the minutes ooze by, I remove more and more dirt from the find, revealing the white bones. The skulls are now completely exposed. I take pleasure in quiet work, the vast openness of the site muffles any sounds.

Looking closely at the bones, searching for answers, I realise there are minuscule threads of fabric wedged into their necks. Leaning closely to investigate, I hear a rustle behind me, and turn around to find my answer. A scroll lies between the feet of the skeletons. I have always been fast at reading, deciphering the hieroglyphics is no problem. Realisation dawns, and I look around frantically to see where he is. But the site is empty, the disturbed dust gently falling back to the earth. He is gone.

I look around once again and see, for the first time, the flowers he gave me before. A cluster of striking red roses, bright against the dull red colour of the earth. Memories re-surface; the endless stares he gave me, his seemingly innocent interest in my work, in carrying my equipment for me… But it is too late. He is gone.

Looking at the scroll lying between the skeletons, I whisper in my mind I will remember you. Looking at these spoils I do what I’ve always done. I continue my treasure hunt.

                                  *                   *                    *

He looked over across the metres of land that separated them. Silence as she works. Two years they have worked together. She has found something, her expression betrays her awe. Hazel eyes devouring up the sight.

Re-focusing on his hands, he realises he has uncovered an object. Hoping to receive that identical look of awe from her, he dusts off the red dirt and a scroll is revealed. His heart sinks; it is nothing of value. Something is recorded on the scroll in a style of hieroglyphs he has studied previously. Knowledge from the past, rusty and unused, strained to comprehend the muddle of pictures and contours filling the scroll. ‘Record of death’ Curiosity awoken, he reads further on… ‘Female and Male. Condemned to death on the 2nd day of the 9th full moon. Found dead in cell. Cause of death: Strangulation’. He discards the scroll from his thoughts, mind turning to the inevitable passing of time. His eyes turning to the gift he bought for her.

The flowers will soon dry up, so will his courage. The walk over is quick, as if the two long years of anticipation meant nothing. On the way, in the split seconds before he arrives by her side, he becomes aware of his surroundings. The sun, high above on its throne of blue, looking down on him with warmth and encouragement. The dusty, silent site divided into taped-off sections, each holding a piece of history. The tranquillity of this world, which can be shattered in one moment.

Unnoticed, he pauses to appreciate this instant which will soon become a memory. But will he treasure that memory? He turns to her, a question in his eyes.

A smile! But her eyes are vacant. He knows, at that point, that she lives in the past. Acceptance stifles the brief moment of anguish and doubt. She stares at the skeletons with a fierce longing he cannot comprehend. Unnerved, he hands her the flowers anyway. She turns away immediately, back to her work. It doesn’t matter. This is the end.

Back turned to her, he begins to walk away when a flash of creamy-white among the red, dusty earth catches his eye. The scroll. Of course. He walks over to her one last time and places the scroll at the skeleton’s feet. By the time she looks around for him he is a speck in the distance, watching, waiting. She returns to her work. She has what she wants.

The sun beat down on the barren land, shrivelling the flowers, forgotten by her side. He shivers. No comfort from the sun. No warmth from the sun.

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*I took this picture of the harbour bridge in one of Sydney’s usual, beautiful sunsets. Enjoy 🙂

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Can anyone guess where this photograph was taken? It is overlooking an ancient city in a country which holds about 3 million people, but has over 10 million people scattered around the world.

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“Staying more than escaping. Pausing rather than rushing. These are our most pressing needs.”

I would be naïve if I thought this was a revelation – nevertheless, the truth of the matter is that many of our lives are fast-paced, busy and tiring; our heads filled with useless information, expectations, pressures, fuzzy unformed thoughts, theories about the multitude of worldviews and ‘isms’, status updates, the little ding-dong of a message alert; and our hearts with deep burning desires that fluctuate like the weather on an Australian Autumn day.

The soundtrack to LIFE has been playing with a relentless beat.

With so much to do, I sometimes forget that taking time out without ‘achieving’ anything is O-K. Strangely enough, when I start getting assessments and exams I become a champion procrastinator and I tell myself these things constantly. Yet there are still emails to be answered, chores that don’t magically disappear, time to be spent with certain people, and the general feeling that I should be participating in an activity that will perhaps help build a career portfolio, strengthen my social network and learn something new to expand my intellectual capacity.

As I was rummaging through my closet and trying to organise bundles of clothes, I found this little shirt that had been discarded and forgotten. It has a beautiful message that came at the perfect time. 

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/justintosh/759210960/

When your heart and mind are full, you’ll be well on the way toward awakening the joy of creativity.

– Thomas Kinkade

I have now been prompted to think about all that fills my heart and mind.

I need time to reflect… Do I like what enters into these channels for creativity?

What fills your heart and mind?

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