Viktor Frankl on Suffering and Spiritual Freedom

But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual freedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given surroundings? Is that theory true which would have us believe that man is no more than a product of many conditional and environmental factors — be they biological, psychological, or sociological nature? Is man but an accidental product of these? Most important, do the prisoners’ reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp prove that man cannot escape the influences of his surroundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of such circumstances?…

In his enduring book, “Man’s Search for Meaning“, Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl questions the environmental influence on man and reassures for us the presence of choice we innately possess. Referencing with great detail his and his fellow mans’ time during the Holocaust, within the inhumane and surreal conditions of concentration camp life, Frankl takes you to the lowest depths of human experience. But, upon momentary and subsequent life long observation into this experience, he assures for us the truth and the power of our last remaining individual liberty — spiritual freedom.

… We can answer these questions from experience as well as on principle. The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that 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. Click To Tweet

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than the mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him– mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevksi said once, There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings. Click To Tweet These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this… Spiritual Freedom-- which cannot be taken away-- that makes life meaningful and purposeful. Click To Tweet

Independent of one’s current environment, or suffering, the human experience is largely dependent upon our perspective, a perspective which is instilled through the narrative we create for ourselves. We have choice; we do. We can choose to view our lives as a part of some uncontrollable fate for which we did not create or ask for, and rest assure many times in life things do happen that we cannot control. But, on the contrary, we can also view our lives however we choose to, uniquely crafted and experienced based upon one thing– Our last remaining freedom-- freedom of spirit. Click To Tweet

Understand, no matter what you are going through, no matter how bad we have painted this experience to be, at any given moment there is choice; choice of action, choice of thought, choice of meaning. Place the value upon life yourself, free from external forces in which, again, for the most part, you cannot control. Give meaning to what you want to give meaning to and base that meaning accordingly to the perspective you want. It’s your choice. And, if your suffering is confusing to you at this moment, find peace in this: Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.


Memoirs of Hadrian

How did you come across the book?

Well… one of my teachers from school had told me about this book… he actually gave this one to me. So yeah, here we go… this is the book I am reading for now. He had told me that it was interesting… and so far it is.

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

This book contains a lot of experience. A lot of it deals with things in life we have all been through; the book connects with you.  It teaches you how to appreciate life more; how you can live your life better then before... Click To Tweet…whatever that means to you. It tells you to always stay on the positive side… if your mind is positive then you will always be in the positive. That is why I like this book; it’s amazing.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

I recommend this to people who love to read books; they must be opened minded. For the ones who look to experience new things in life, which… whether the story is true or not true, reading this its still going to teach you a lot of lessons.

#JustFinished: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”

A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for. - John A. Shedd Click To Tweet

Traveling along the Atlantic east coast, up Highway 13 through the small towns of Chesapeake Bay, I finished one of my current reads; Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. The trips initial crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel aided the imagination in the minds fruition of this classics’ main setting; the sea. Needless to say, the tone was right and the book provided a plethora of wisdom and thought. Below I share with you a few of my favorite quotes from the read. Enjoy…

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On preparation…

“But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day… It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready. Click To Tweet

On establishing your own image…

“I wish I could show him what sort of man I am. But then he would see the cramped hand… Let him think I am more than I am and I will be so. Click To Tweet

On the human experience of endure…

But man is not made for defeat, he said. A man can be destroyed but not defeated. Click To Tweet

On choice of thought…

“Don’t think old man,” he said aloud… Sail on this course and take it when it comes. Click To Tweet …But I must think, he thought. Because it is all I have left.”

On perspective of situation…

Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. Click To Tweet

On the now…

“He was a fish to keep a man all winter, he thought. Don’t think of that… Just rest and try to get your hands in shape to defend what is left of him. Click To Tweet

On illusion…

“What can I think of now? he thought. Nothing. I must think of nothing and wait for the next ones. I wish it had really been a dream, he thought… But who knows? It might have turned out well. Click To Tweet

On being the captain of your own fate…

“It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. I never knew how easy it was… And what beat you, he thought. Nothing, he said aloud. I went out too far. Click To Tweet

The above quotes only lightly express the wisdom and thought one can extract from the reading of this book. Furthermore, the beauty of reading provides us the opportunity to pull from a book what is unique, wanted or needed according to ones life. If you have read it, or choose to in the future, please let me know what you think, along with sharing with me your favorite quotes in the comment section below!


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“Iron” Mike Tyson on the Gift of Life

I have been a fan of boxing for as long as I can remember. The brutal and honest expression of two beings giving their all for something they have placed value upon greater than themselves; what more can we ask for. Whether it is for their country, their families, becoming the best of something in this world, or for the satisfaction of seeing ones hard work and devotion to ones craft come to fruition, outside of the result, boxing itself teaches us a very important truth within life. Simply put… You will get hit and you will fall, but it is never about that... it is about getting back up. Click To Tweet

Coined as the “Baddest Man on the Planet, “Iron” Mike Tyson at one point represented the image and the presence of brutality. He destroyed any foe we placed in front of him and did so with a prowess of rage and aggression. But, the purpose of this post is not to focus on what once was, which was a narrative fabricated largely by the world instead of by the individual. Rather on the contrary, I want to share with you the beauty of life and how who we are painted to be is never truly who we are. Below is an expert from the documentary film “Champs“, a beautifully crafted story focusing on the life and times of three greats within the sport: Bernard Hopkins, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson. Ending the film, Tyson shares with us a perspective on life and the gift in which it is. Enjoy…

“It all comes down to family, love, forgiveness, respect. Closing the gap between who I am and who I want to be. Finding different ways of becoming more conscious about myself. Human beings think a lot of themselves, you know. They think that we will be that privileged to see the end of the world; I don’t think that we are gonna have that privilege. I know there are things that happen that are bad but, we have to look at all the good that is happening out here. I see a new birth in the world; I see people respecting people more. We have to evolve; this is a great world and its the best deal we ever get in this life, you know…. Life it self... we got this for nothing; look at all we get in return. Click To Tweet

What I took from this perspective and from the person sharing it, is that this world is very good at pointing out and sharing the negative, whether of the individual or of the collective whole. Who we are is never concrete and what this world becomes is only up to us. Who we are as individuals and as a collective falls upon our shoulders. If we can see and appreciate the uniqueness of the individual without applying our own bias or presumption, along with applying this gratuity to the world, nothing can get in our way. Look around yourself today and appreciate life. And like Mike, look around at all we get in return for simply being here. Its beautiful!

Stamped from the Beginning

How did you come across the book?

“That’s a good question… umm… I think it came up on my GoodReads. I’m on GoodReads and I think one of my friends marked it as a book he wanted to read so I checked it out and added it to my list.”

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

“Man… I was actually just talking about this earlier! So, essentially the way the book goes… he breaks it down into three different ideas… and then looks at racist ideas through those three different lenses; its the segregationists, or the racists, the anti-racists, and the assimilationists. So, you have segregationists people who are just flat out racist… your anti-racist people who are firmly against racism and all its forms… and then your assimilationists… and those are the ones who say that if black people were to be more like white people, or if black people could aspire to whiteness, then everything would be better… and, I think the biggest thing that I’ve taken from this book is that I would have firmly put myself within the anti-racist category… but I found that so many of my thoughts and views, which were shaped by the racist society that we live in …put me in the assimilationist category… where I would say things like, “Oh, if we black people could just do this… then, you know, we’d be viewed differently.” But… uplift suasion… which is something he talks about… which is the idea that if we  would act a certain way then white people would respect us… and media suasion… which is if white people would just see more good black people then they would think differently about us; historically both have proven to not work. It’s just been… eye opening… kind of like… if you’ve seen the documentary 13th. And so… you know how that entire documentary, your just going wow… WOW? You read this book and you’re just going…WOW! So yeah... its incredible! I'd recommend it to anybody. Click To Tweet

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

” I would recommend this book… literally… to everybody. I would recommend it to racists, so that they can see where there ideas came from… I would recommend it to anti-racists, so that they can see the history of the struggle… and I would recommend it to assimilationists, because most assimilationists don’t realize that that is the category they fall into… and reading this book would really open their eyes and give them a new perspective.”

Janis Joplin on the Urgency for Love

Towards the end of an innately passionate and deeply sexual live recording of Janis Joplin’s ‘Ball and Chain’, the uniquely beautiful and equally as talented artist reminds us all of the importance of urgency for love within our brief experience we call life. Enjoy…

“And when everybody in the world wants the same damn thing. When everybody in the world who needs the same old thing. When I want to work for your love daddy. When I want to try for your love daddy. I don’t understand… how come you’re gone, man.

I don’t understand why half the world is still crying man, when the other half of the world is still crying too; and I can’t get it together. I mean, if you’ve got a cat for one day, man… say maybe you want a cat for 365 days, right? You ain’t got it for 365 days; you’ve got it for one day… Well I'll tell you... that one day, better be your life. Click To Tweet …Because, you know, you can say… you can cry about the other 364, but you’re gonna lose that one day man, and that’s all you got… you gotta call that love; that’s what it is man. If you’ve got it today, you don’t wear it tomorrow; because we don’t need it. Cause’… as a matter of fact… as we discovered on the terrain… tomorrow never happens man; it’s all the same fuckin’ day!

So you gotta… when you wanna hold somebody, you’ve gotta hold’em like its the last minute of your life, baby; you gotta hold it. Cause’ someday some weight is gonna come on your shoulders babe… its gonna feel too heavy, its gonna weigh on ya, its gonna feel just like… a ball and chain.”


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For the actual recording, listen here…

To enjoy the full experience of Janis singing “Ball and Chain” at live at Monterey Pop Festival 1967, watch the video below…

For a truly authentic musical experience of the Festivals entirety…click the image below!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

How did you come across the book?

I watched the movies and fell in love with them. I read The Hobbit in middle school and hated it honestly. But, I am the sort to read the book if I dig the movie… and I really dig the movies!

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

I’ve gained the perspective that darkness is apart of light; that we have challenges we don’t want to face, but… that we have to face as the person we decide to be. I’ve gained that becoming your enemy only perpetuates the cycle of darkness (Bilbo not killing Gollum when he had the chance) and that villans even have something to teach us and are a necessary part of life. I’ve learned that evil happens whether we are paying attention or not and that good happens whether we are looking for it or not, too. Life comes down to choice; who do you want to be.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

I would recommend this book to anybody, but… letting go of the fact that not everybody loves fantasy and sci-fi, I would recommend it to fans of the latter genre. I would do this because these ethics represent life. While I admit the racist undertones, as should be acknowledged, the Lord of the Rings series as whole represents exsistence in general in our universe and more relevantly serves as a great metaphor for America during the Trump administration.