Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Why am I Here? Do I Matter?"

It was a long time ago that I read Victor Frankl’s 1946 book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Powerful!  Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist in Vienna in 1942. He was rounded up by the Nazis and sent to several concentration camps. His mother, brother, and wife all died in the camps.

Frankl was assigned to lay railroad tracks. Certainly below his education and expectations. He had to decide what kind of person he would be in response to his circumstances. He quickly discerned that he could only control his inner response to his sufferings.  Dehumanization was at the top of the Nazi’s agenda. Some prisoners went along with the degradation and others retreated into themselves and focused on happier memories.

What Frankl realized was that some prisoners beat back dehumanization by small acts of dignity and compassion. He took advantage of his horrible experience in the camps to study people under the worst conditions imaginable! He told his fellow prisoners that God was watching them – a friend, a wife, somebody – who did not want to be disappointed.  In the muddle, the corpses, and the grime, he said, “I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space.”

Frankl emphasized that the basic drive that kept people alive was not hunger, sex, power or money, but a will for meaning in life. Why am I here?  Do I matter?

You have aptitudes, gifts, talents and traits that are a given. All of us discover circumstances that cry out for our investment whether hunger, abuse, suffering, grief, inequality or family issues. Are we sensitive enough to understand the assignment our context demands?

The Jewish Mishnah has it, “It’s not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from beginning it.”


1 comment:

  1. Thanks DaveI am sending this to every member of my immediate family.