There is a book that I read every year. It was written by Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl and is called, Man’s Search For Meaning. I first read it when I was in college, and let me tell you, I was an idiot. I read it because it was required. I highlighted the pertinent information, like Victor’s birth date and his age at the time of captivity – the things I expected to show up on the test. I missed the point entirely. When I read it again several years later, it shattered my entire belief system. It challenged my humanity when I read it the next year. And the next year it stopped me in my tracks so often it took more than a month to read the 164 pages. Eventually more sentences were highlighted than weren’t and I had to buy a new book.
This week the world celebrated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I looked through the pictures that could not convey enough horror. I was struck by the eerily beautiful and artistic main gate and was reminded of Victor and how he states that art should be pursued in all circumstances. Something I’ve been working on this last year is what he calls, “mastering the art of living.” We are the artist, and our life is the canvas. We create with our choices. He says that everything can be taken away from anyone except one thing: the ability to choose the attitude you will adopt regarding what has happened. He says this a spiritual freedom given to all people – to decide what will become of oneself mentally and spiritually no matter the circumstances. This spiritual freedom that cannot be taken away is what makes our life meaningful and purposeful. We can choose to treat it trivially or to use it to create something of beauty. Even the worst of circumstances, like Victor’s, can be an opportunity to master the art of living. The worst of my days, nothing in comparison to his, add color and vibrance to the art that is life.
As Victor says, “What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.”
Might as well make it all matter.