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Man’s search for meaning

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Written by Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning is “a classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust”. I still can’t believe that I laid my hands on such a remarkable and fantastic work. It is the kind of book that possesses the power to turn one’s life around. It would pick your broken pieces and give you the psychological tools to get the pieces back in place and redeem your life all at once. I feel like I read it in one breath. And now that it’s over I feel like I’m earnestly and almost thirstily breathing an air better than the one before I beheld the book. One filled with freshness and hope. It would make you appreciate your life and be thankful for the problems you have encountered, however brutal they once felt like. I highly recommend it to all the readers and non-readers as well. Good news for non-readers is that it is a quick read and would leave a chip on the back of your head, that would give a direction to your life.

Countless works have been produced in order to help us find the purpose of our lives and lead a life of meaning and example. But, only a few such as this have had the power to reach deep into one’s soul and impacting us in ways we had been promised. It is a book of modest volume and can be easily read in one sitting. However the impression it would leave on you would undoubtedly last a lifetime. Life is a one time opportunity, yet many of us give up when the times are tough. This book would, in many ways, make your problems seem too trivial to put your life at halt for. It would introduce  your own strengths to you. Trust me when I say that it is one of it’s kind in survival literature.

Victor E. Frankl was a professor at Vienna Medical School where he taught neurology and psychiatry until his death in 1997. He remains a much revered hero of many. And the book having sold more than 12 million copies, speaks for itself. It more or less, reminded me of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. What is common to both is their way of getting the readers emotionally involved and leaving us with the feeling that we have personally experienced some of their grief and hence we understand what they are speaking of. Along with the numerous accounts of the horrors faced by the author, there also are lessons of life spoken with such passion and positiveness in the face of unimaginable adversities, that leave the reader with nothing but respect and admiration for the survivor. One of the biggest lessons here is to deal with every situation with the best of your faculties, for we can’t control the situations but our attitudes. In Frankl’s words “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.”

Spoilers ahead.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part comprises of an autobiographical story where Frankl gives accounts of his depressing and painful life at different Nazi concentration camps during World War II, including at Auschwitz. While the prisoners were treated like animals with no identity, many of them couldn’t stand the physical and emotional torture. Yet there were many, who kept the virtues of humanity flaming within and denied to become what was expected of them. They chose to stick to their lives as respectable humans with empathy and zeal. Frankl has presented many such instances where he empathizes with others and happily puts in little possible efforts from his side so as to help his fellow inmates. In the second part of the book he introduces to the readers the concept of Logotherapy and then onward we are introduced to numerous other technical terms and application of the therapy in different spheres of life.

Having a Psychologist in the family, I have come across some beautiful and astounding techniques of Psychotherapy. So, perhaps that was the reason I saw Logotherapy in a clearer light and absolutely loved the vivid descriptions of real life implications. However, it is absolutely fine if you don’t want to bother yourself with the statistics, therapeutic descriptions or findings included in the later part of the book.

If I am asked to give out my favorite parts, I would end up writing down the whole book here. For each page had something brilliant to offer. Laced with helplessness was a shimmer of hope, which kept Frankl going. At a point of time, a thought transfixed him. That love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. And he concluded that “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” While his life was falling apart he created his wife’s image in his mind with much acuteness and clung to it as if his life depended upon it. It was a beautiful and touching part.

There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life. There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Another part that left me awed was the story of Death in Teheran, and the way the Author compared it to the ill fate that his inmates faced later.

A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death.

While going through the photographs which had been taken at a different camp, the author stumbled across the images of partially charred bodies of his friends who had then thought that they were traveling to freedom, the night they were loaded into a truck and taken to another camp. But actually were locked in huts and set on fire. Frankl reflected upon the fact that how fickle human decisions can bring major impacts upon the destiny. How fate had toyed with him and the remaining prisoners who got to live.

In the whole story, there are umpteen accounts of death. Somewhere, someone is dying every once in a while. And yet, the essence of LIFE has been so well propagated through it. In the later part of the book where Logotherapy has been discussed, many other aspects have been brought to light. The meaning of life, love and suffering could not have been explained any better, in such short an excerpt.

And ah, what profound ending.

“So, let us be alert-alert in a twofold sense:

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.

And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.”

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INFERNO- The Journey Through Hell

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If you are a fan of Classics but not strong enough to ignore the new arrivals altogether, I think it is wise to set some ground rules so that your mind is spared the homicidal battles within. After finishing a new favorite, go back to an old one. Alternate your precious time equally between the two. Life is too short to miss out on all the great works that have been produced. You may thank me later nerds ūüėČ

A week back, with the release of the movie starring Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan I was taken aback by the fact that I had not read the book Inferno by Dan Brown. Needless to say that in readers community it is considered a deplorable crime to watch the movie first, keeping the book to be attended later. But then mixed feelings of regret and relief donned on me when I found Dante’s Inferno in the book shelf at home. Without any further adieu I hopped on the bed with a mug of hot chocolate and wrapped in my cozy blanket started devouring this epic work by Dante Alighieri written in the 14th Century. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighiery, ‘INFERNO’ – A verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum. If you are a lover of poetry, you can’t ignore a work of such rare perfection. It is a book of modest volume, but I suggest that you read it for as long as you can. Absorb each dialogue with sincere admiration and a hawk’s eye. That is where the fun lies. Devour the fine details with the best of your faculties.

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem that was presumably written in the period 1308-1320. While Dante was in exile he wrote three volumes of it, Inferno, Purgutario and Paradiso. Inferno is the narration of the journey that Dante undertakes down the hell. Guided by the Roman poet Virgil, he fearlessly embarks through numerous circles of hell, 9 to be exact. Each circle represents a sin, and the damned souls are trapped there for eternity. The three beasts he encounters represent three kinds of sinners, the self-indulgent, the malicious and the violent. The circles or sins are of lust, anger, gluttony, avarice, violence, fraud, treachery, those who ignored the existence of Christ and those who confused others about the idea of Christ. As Dante passes each circle he meets people known to him as well as strangers. The dialogues they exchange are insightful I must say.  Each sin that has been described is exceptionally realistic and is explained to Dante either by Virgil or the sinners themselves.

The beauty of this book is that it is a dual language edition and comes with explanatory notes at the back. Don’t go on if you are not getting the plot. Read once, twice, thrice, as many times as you feel like. Take it slow and read with patience. If you feel like you are not just ready, drop it for a while. This is not another easy going novel you can take with you to read by the beach while your friends are howling around. It is the kind that you read in the silent confines of your room. Give it time and exclusive attention. Give it love, and it will reflect the same.

I’m screaming it loud and clear. VISUALIZE everything you read. Every single dialogue. That is one rule you have to strictly stick by.

Come, have a good look at hell.

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And yeah, don’t get all serious while reading it. I personally couldn’t help smirking every now and then. It is a blend of both horror and humor, so of course both are meant to be felt. There are times you will have a sinking feeling for yourself, but then you may have some fun imagining people you don’t like, damned to hell. Dante is brilliantly imaginative in devising ways for torturing his enemies. You may have your own opinions during the journey, which may make you question the perfection of Dante’s work, but it is absolutely fine. The uneasiness and restlessness that comes with it is absolutely worth it. This book is outrageously diplomatic, philosophical and political at the same time. Dante has sent to hell real people. Daring, eh? One thing that took me by surprise is finding his beloved teacher Brunetto Latini in hell, convicted of sodomy( canto XV ). Seems like God( as per Dante’s assumptions) wasn’t that open minded regarding sex during the 14th century. Homosexuality? Nu-uh.

Dante doesn’t cease to amaze the reader, despite the aforementioned scene or a couple others that may make us raise brows. But come on, it was written 7 centuries back. We can be sensible enough to ignore the difference in mindsets and enjoy the book as a literary blessing for once, right?

In case it makes you feel any better, in canto XX the fortune tellers were damned(*chuckles* which serves them so damn right) and were condemned to walk with their heads turned backwards, restricting them from knowing what lies ahead, since this is precisely what they had done all their life, creating fear of the unknown in the minds of people.

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It is the kind of book that gives you a bad hangover. The kind that nerds would kill to experience. Can’t wait to lay my hands on the other two volumes. Take my word for it folks, at one point in life you will be ready for this book. And when you are, it will be one hell of a read.

Redemption

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picture credits- wallpaperfolder.com

Traveling the world with a frantic zeal,

she was naive of the hoarding smoke and dust

enveloping her innocent skin

with an ugly mask of a vying dark horse.

As the smoke clouded her cognition,

and dust coated her inner voice

she felt like losing the virtues and morals

that had shaped her into a noble human

slowly and quietly fading away.

As the realization kicked in

and she felt like she had lost her real self

somewhere on the way,

a small voice spoke from the back of her head

reminding her that her prized assets

were hidden beneath the layer

of accumulated filthiness.

The filth was anger, jealousy, hatred

and the greed to conquer the world,

which at first seemed requisite fuel

to ignite her passion and resolve.

What she never knew is

she would be sacrificing herself

in the journey of winning

everything else in the world.

Perhaps what she considered fuels

were in fact depleting her of vigor and grandeur.

Been proven by history time and again

empathy, humility, love and elation

are the finest driving forces of success

and embodiment of a life of perfection.

Having learned her mistakes

and earnestly deciding to shed the mask off

as she let the wisdom sink in,

she dived deep into the sea of redemption.

 

 

 

A FULL-STOP TO MY QUEST FOR HUMANITY!

( I wrote this post to express my deepest remorse and heartache regarding the heart wrenching massacre of Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 in which about 132 innocent school children were mercilessly murdered at Army Public school in Peshawar, Pakistan.The Taliban gunmen have given us all a reason strong enough to question whether they are even humans.For a country already weary of never ending terrorist attacks it was like applying a salt-spread on fresh wounds.May the almighty put some fear in the hearts of these cold-blooded beasts. And may those little angels rest in peace.)

With hopes dashed,

Promises crushed,

Dreams shattered into fragments

Little souls tormented by fears

Have left the sadistic earth,

Uncertain whether they wish for rebirth

For the world seems not to change.

Nursing its animosity and hatred for the mankind

The world is headed well on its way towards doom,

And in its meaningless war of religion and politics

It has forgotten the sacredness and beauty of humanity,

To undoubtedly perish in the days to come.

Those little souls were the most precious gifts of nature,

Yet they were brutally burned

In the fire of the spleen of those barbarous monsters.

Even millions of prayers and apologies

Are not enough to bring them back

For they are gone forever,

Never to return.

What remains is just their blooded footprints on the sands of time.

They were supposed to live, learn and explore

Yet they have been sent to the lifeless pages of history.

However I am glad that the world put me out of my illusion

And I can already put a full-stop to my quest for humanity.

For the world never seems to get tired of giving

instances of its brutality.