Friday, 12 April 2013
An inner life in hell?
This elderly gentleman was a truly extraordinary man. He died in the late 1990s at the age of 92. Not only did he survive the Nazi concentration camps, he found in it a source of his life's work thereafter.
I can't sum up the depth, clarity and precision of his thought in a few words, but: he concentrated on how we need to find meaning in our lives. He realised in the depths of hell that if the inmates found no meaning in what was happening, they were doomed.
His answer to the frequent but hopeless question "what is the meaning of life?" he summed up thus:
"For 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."
He found that we have to let life ask the questions of us, different questions all the time, and how we respond is what gives meaning to our lives. He found that was the way to find meaning in what he and the others suffered, and to endure it.
He found it possible, as did others, to develop an inner life, a spiritual development, in the camps. He found that moments of natural beauty, because they were such a particularly intense contrast to his immediate surroundings, were supremely important.
He thought thus whilst working in pyjamas in zero degrees.
Such a man creates hope, enlightenment, understand. He relieves suffering.
Ah, don't bother with this feeble summary - go read the book.
"Man's Search for meaning," by Viktor E Frankl.