Summer Short 4
I finally read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel this winter. I believe summer should be reserved for lighter reading material, Girl on the Train etc. While reading, I found myself in his description of those who were mentally strong in the face of such horrible adversity. Frankel wrote, “Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.”
Not to compare my life in any way, shape or form to those who were in a concentration camp, I mean, I barely survived Camp Keyauwee for a week the summer after the 6th grade, but I have discovered that a rich inner life and imagination, a strong mind and connection to a faith in something bigger than myself has proved to make me a stronger person than I think most people would have bet on given my sensitivity and my circumstances. I think many people, including maybe myself, would have thought that this existence might have crushed me.
When people used to comment about my “grace under pressure” as Hemingway coined it or how I rose to the occasion, I always poo poo’d it and would say, what choice did I have? One day though, a wise friend said, “Well, actually, you did have a choice. You just chose the stronger part of you.” I don’t know if it is human nature but we seldom become all of who we are until forced to it. Or maybe that’s just me.
But having a strong inner world without meeting the outer one doesn’t serve us either. You must meet the outer world with your inner world or our lives will collapse and vanish down the rabbit hole. Narrowing the whole of our experience and existence. Though we are often under the misconception that hiding in our inwardness will somehow protect us or save us, that stopping the flow of love will stop the hurt, it is actually quite the opposite. The heart is like a balloon. It’s lightness comes from staying full. Meeting the days with our hearts prevents its collapse. The more we let love flow, the more we have to love.
This is why a concentration camp prisoner could still appreciate a sunrise or the beauty of the mountains or forest. This is why a mother going through chemotherapy can still rise to make breakfast for her children. This is why Beethoven could still write his Ninth Symphony while almost deaf, why Matisse who could no longer paint due to disabilities could still create his iconic cut-outs, why a recent widow who had been married for 50 years can still tend to her garden. This is why when we think we can’t possibly try again, we inhale and then try again.
Because it is in our nature to expand.