LIFE IN DIFFICULT TIMES

I recently read a book by Viktor Frankl - Saying yes to life in difficult times. I had already read Frankl’s Man’s search for meaning. Frankl’s books raises hope. It is about human dignity. Frankl was an Auschwitz survivor. Both his books depict a psychologist’s experience in the concentration camp. The books are about the anxieties and sufferings of a time. It is the story of survival. Many prisoners wanted to commit suicide in the concentration camps, but a few committed suicide. Their strength was their conviction that they are irreplaceable, and if they commit suicide, it will be a loss to humanity. They felt they have a certain responsibility towards fellow humans. They were realising the meaning of their existence. They saw light in the future. They saw the possibility of survival. They saw in their suffering the power of survival. They did not want to disappoint their family, their friends, and even god. They saw meaning in their sacrifice. They saw meaning in suffering and death. Frankl believed, if one understands the meaning of life, he can endure anything. He believed, “What man actually needs is not a tension less state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.” His meaning of life was not an academic exercise, or a thought experiment. It was the right conduct of life. It was not in preaching, but in meditation. Frankl’s fight was against the defeatist mindset and blithe optimism. One needs to be courageous to live the life of integrity. In spite of the holocaust, Frankl believed that ‘what is human is still valid’. When everything (money, power, fame, etc) is taken away, when melts down the non-essentials (vanity and ambition), what remains is the essential self, the human. Lack of pleasure can’t take away the meaning of life. In his discourse on the meaning of life, Frankl quotes Rabindranath: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was duty. I worked — and behold, duty was joy.” Life is a duty, and it can’t be allowed to be taken away by the self or someone else, until the time duties are over. The question – what is the meaning of life recognises that every individual is different. Frankl says, our imperfections teach us many things; they don’t subtract but add to the meaning of life. Frankl writes, “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.”

Every situation is unique. Every man is unique. Optimism grows out of hope. Euphoria kills it. We commonly overestimate our future successes. Once in a while, therefore, we need to wash our eyes by our tears so that we can see life with a clearer view again. Often our tears help us to see life more clearly. If you believe in someone up there, your unknown companion, instead of ruminating on what should be done, one can actually do things. No engineering has produced a better product than life. It is also a fact that life is not a matter of engineering. Life is a gift of nature. It evolves. Let man evolve naturally. Let man grow organically, with limitations and fragility.