And so this week we have learned of more tragedy in our world, specifically Edmonton, AB (I have children and grandchildren living in Edmonton) and Las Vegas, NV. It’s horrific…it’s senseless…it’s sickening to think that one human being can destroy the lives of so many others. Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue on his late night talk show struck a chord with many when he likened the events in Las Vegas to “opening the doors of hell.”
Kimmel’s analogy reminded me of a recent CBC podcast I listened to discussing author Viktor E. Frankl’s experiences in German concentration camps during another “hellish” period in world history. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl describes an astonishing account of survival in spite of his imprisonment in four concentration camps during WWII, the loss of all of his family members, starvation, the loss of his freedom and dignity, and endless physical and mental torture.
In spite of his circumstances, Frankl clung to the last of all human freedoms: the freedom to choose his response to the atrocities he faced every day in the concentration camps. It was because of his conscious choices that he remained resilient and ultimately survived! Indeed, Frankl’s book acts as a powerful antidote for what seems to be unending catastrophic events, which is why we need to revisit it today.
Frankl’s basic philosopy of focusing on hope, focusing on the future, and what the future could be, provided him with the fortitude to live through the “doors of hell.” One story that stands out for me had to do with the powerful use of humour. It seems hard to imagine, but Frankl and his fellow prisoners actually promised to tell each other jokes for relief from their difficult circumstances.
And so I ask, how should we respond in the wake of recent tragedies? With bitterness, cynicism and cruel negativity to ourselves and others? Or with hope and love, empowering our human inventiveness and solution-oriented creativity that we all have within us to stand up and believe that we can and will make a difference in the world for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and all of the people we cherish and love.
Yes, WE have the power to change our lives and the lives of others for the better. As Frankl did, it starts with the choices we make about what we’re going to do.
We can decide to make a positive impact by:
- Performing one small act of kindness
- Finding the humour in difficult situations
- Expressing gratitude for what we have
- Creating a loving community
- Journaling to build inventiveness
- Monitoring our thoughts and tracking them to a positive path
All of these decisions are within our control!
It couldn’t have been easy for Frankl to focus on choosing a response different from hatred and even death as he was tortured and beaten, but he did and he conquered. Following his example, we can’t allow the injured parties or the souls who lost their lives this week to be for naught. Horrific events can be a catalyst to rise above the hatred and find meaning and purpose in our lives. We have choices, just as Frankl did. He chose to focus on hope and creating an accepting and loving future. We can make that choice, too!
Just as a footnote: When Frankl was 90 years old, he was still receiving 8,000 letters per year from people thanking him for changing their lives.