Sunday, February 20, 2011

Man's Search for Meaning

This book was recommended to me about ten years ago.  I picked it up on a road trip and had it finished before I stepped off the plane.  It's a pretty quick read, but what you take from it really depends upon your station in life.  I've read this book three times.  Each time, my understanding was deeper, and I find myself referencing some of these thoughts on a daily basis.  The reason?  It's a book about hope, and the control that each of us has to choose the lenses that we see the world through.  It is one of those books that can be quite profound.  Like, you read a couple of passages and you start to reflect, and then whoa, it hits you deep and you have to think about it and how you can apply it to your own life.
I've been told that I am a thinker.  I've also been told I'm a slow trickle.  I don't know, maybe that is true.  I often reflect deeply on the things in my life that I am passionate about, and I find it difficult to rest until I come up with solutions or ways to make sense of it all.  Viktor Frankl writes about his experience in a concentration camp.  The passage below is one of those profound ones that might leave you thinking too:

... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way  – an honorable way  – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory...."

Ummmm.....this just leaves me so humbled.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that, " these three remain, faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love."  One of my theology professors at Santa Clara introduced us to the Greek word for love, agape.  Agape love is God's perfect love...."for God so loved the world......"  Agape love is a tradition shared by eight of the world's religions.  Frankl was correct when stating that love is "proclaimed as the final wisdom of so many thinkers." 

Love is powerful.  Love transcends all things.   Even in the face of loss, love is the one thing, in my humble opinion, that does not change.  Our hearts are forever changed by love.  I guess most of us probably experienced this most profoundly at the birth of our children.  Quite possibly one of the biggest miracles I've ever witnessed, and undoubtedly, the most unconditional kind of love around.
This image of my three girls is one that I will carry for my entire life.  My favorite!
This might be the dumbest revelation ever, but I've come to realize that I am not in complete control of my own life.  There has to be a greater power at work.
These are the thoughts that have swirled in my head for quite some time.  "The image we carry of our beloved"....well, it's not just an image, it's the feelings of love and the laughter of moments that we've shared together that help us hope for what is yet to come.  At Christmas time this year, I was able to have a painting made for my friend Jennifer.  When Olivia passed, her heart was donated to a little boy in Hawaii.  The story behind this is incredibly moving.....a higher power was certainly at work.  I wanted to capture an image of Olivia that represented hope, that captured Olivia's spirit, and that might allow my friend to find fulfillment in the contemplation of an infinite glory.  My artist friend Jessica literally rocked my world with what she created.  

I for sure do not have all the answers.  Remember when you were a kid and you could lie on the grass and stare up at the clouds, designing all sorts of shapes?  Inevitably, these are the moments that make you realize how small you really are when compared to the universe.  I would highly recommend taking a peek at this book!

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