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Posts Tagged ‘Viktor Frankl’

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout 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 away 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.

–Viktor Frankl

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I ran this quote from Viktor Frankl a couple of years back in a post about how a painting reminded me of Frankl’s work, as outlined in his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning.  In it, he wrote of his survival in  a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and how he noted that those who endured were those who found a purpose to live outside of themselves.  It could be as simple as needing to live to see their spouse once more.  It was a goal, a purpose that they could see in the future beyond the horror that engulfed them in the present.

Those who saw no purpose, no future, seldom survived.

That is as condensed a version of what I gleaned from Frankl’s work as I can give.  I know that it transformed my own view of life at a time in my own life when I seemed to exist without purpose, a time that now seems eons ago, thankfully.  Frankl’s work has continued to spring up in my thoughts over the decades, always inspiring me to look for purpose in my existence.

So when I recently  finished this 24″ by 30″ painting on canvas, I wasn’t surprised that his work again came to mind.  There is a sense of direction and purpose in this piece that fits with how I think of his work.  The Red Tree has a certain dignity and spirit, like an unquenchable fire, and the winding path goes past it into an unseen future.  The path is the purpose on which we move forward.  Yes, there are hardships and uncertainties that must be endured but there is a future if we follow this purpose.

I have titled this painting Viktor.  It both represents Frankl and his work as well as well as the work victor.  It is part of my upcoming show at the West End Gallery, In Rhythm, which opens July 20.

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Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity.

——Viktor Frankl

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The words of Viktor Frankl, the WW II concentration camp survivor who went on to greater fame as a psychotherapist and author, seemed to ring true for this square painting after I finished it.  I saw the Red Tree here as one that finally saw its uniqueness in the world, sensing in the moment that with this individuality there came a mission that must be carried out.

A reason for being.

I think that’s something we have all desired in our lives.  I know it was something I have longed for throughout my life and often found lacking at earlier stages.  I remember reading Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning, at a point when I felt adrift in the world.  I read how the inmates of the concentration camp who survived often had  a reason that they consciously grasped in order to continue their struggle to live.  It could be something as simple as seeing the ones they loved again. Anything to give them a sense of future.  Those who lost their faith in a future lost their will to live and usually perished. 

 At the time when I read this, I understood the words but didn’t fully comprehend the concept.  I felt little meaning in my life and didn’t see one near at hand.  It wasn’t to years later when I finally found what I do now that I began to understand Frankl’s words.

We are all unique beings.  We all have unique missions.  The trick is in recognizing our individuality and trusting that it will carry us forward into a future.

I’ve kept this short.  There are many things that I could say here but the idea of finding one’s mission, ones meaning, is the thought that I see in this piece.  This paintings is titled The Moment’s Mission and is 11″ by 11″ on paper.  It is part of the Principle Gallery show that opens Friday.

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We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout 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 away 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.

———-Viktor Frankl

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I don’t know why this came to mind today but it did.  Viktor Frankl was an Auschwitz survivor who, after the war, created logotherapy, one of the important schools of psychotherapy alongside those of Freud, Adler and Jung.  It was a therapy based on finding meaning in one’s life, a reason to struggle onward.  In his best known book, Man’s Search For Meaning, he recounts his time in the concentration camp and how he and others who survived  seemed to have something in common– the discovery of a purpose and meaning in living.  It might be love. It might  be the will and drive to create.  Just something to set on their horizon to pull them ahead despite the horror around them.

Maybe it was this painting, Lifeblood,  that brought back Frankl for me.  I had come across his work a number of years ago and and his words and example have helped me through some desperate, foundering times of my own.  There is a certain power in knowing that we all are fated to suffering of some sort, just by the sheer nature of existence.  There will be pain, there will be death.  No one is exempt from the distresses of  life.  But these can be endured through the knowledge that we have the choice in how we react to such events, how we perceive the deprivations of our lives.  We can choose to wallow, to give in,  or we can forge ahead.

Maybe that’s how I see this painting, as a path through the pains of living, symbolized by the blood red of the ground.  All the leaves, everything it had,  have been stripped from the tree yet it still stands.  It reaches for the light above, seeks a meaning for its suffering. 

I didn’t see it that way when I first painted this.  It was simply color and form.  Simplicity and harmony.  But sometimes there’s an associative power to a piece that gnaws at you, begs you to look deeper and find what it’s trying to say.  And maybe the ideas of Viktor Frankl hide in this piece for me…

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