I wasn’t going to write anything today. Getting ready for the new show at the West End Gallery has kept me exceedingly busy but I came across a clip from a Viktor Frankl lecture that I liked and wanted to share. Frankl ‘s book, Man’s Search For Meaning, has been an important book in my life and his ability to find hope in the darkest of times always provides inspiration. The clip, from 1972, shows this optimism and even though it is from 1972, it speaks for any time. Honestly, the idea that this man who has experienced the worst side of mankind can find hope for mankind makes me slightly ashamed at the cynicism I sometime find in myself when I consider the future of this planet.
You can find Frankl’s book on YouTube as a free audiobook by clicking here.
To preface the clip I thought I would share a blogpost and painting from five years back:
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.
I don’t know why this came to mind today but it did. Viktor Franklwas an Auschwitz survivor who, after the war, createdlogotherapy, 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…