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Posts Tagged ‘Viktor Frankl’

“Hunkered Down”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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I slept and dreamt
that life was joy.
I awoke and saw
that life was duty.
I worked — and behold,
duty was joy.

–Rabindranath Tagore

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When I first read the short poem above from the great poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore some time ago, it struck a chord with me. It so simply, in just a few lines, put across an observation that takes most of us a lifetime to realize. That is, if we ever do realize it.

Duty was joy.

But what is duty? Is it in being a good parent? A faithful spouse and a loyal friend? Is it in what we do to make a living? Or is it in being decent and caring human being?

Perhaps, it is how our lives touch the lives of others? Could that be a duty?

I don’t know for sure. Most likely joy is not a one size fits all proposition.

My own feeling is that duty is much like having a purpose, a reason for living. I remember reading Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl‘s transcendent book, Man’s Search For Meaning, which described his time in the Auschwitz death camp. He observed that those who were able to survive the horror were those who somehow had a purpose for their life, who saw a future that they needed to reach ahead for. This purpose, even a modest one, often gave them the drive needed for survival, creating a path forward for them.

In the year after being liberated from Auschwitz, Frankl gave a series of lectures that were the basis for his book. In one he spoke of Tagore’s poem and that final line: Duty was joy:

So, life is somehow duty, a single, huge obligation. And there is certainly joy in life too, but it cannot be pursued, cannot be “willed into being” as joy; rather, it must arise spontaneously, and in fact, it does arise spontaneously, just as an outcome may arise: Happiness should not, must not, and can never be a goal, but only an outcome; the outcome of the fulfillment of that which in Tagore’s poem is called duty… All human striving for happiness, in this sense, is doomed to failure as luck can only fall into one’s lap but can never be hunted down.

In short, lasting joy and happiness cannot be pursued as a goal on their own, without a responsibility to some higher purpose.

I am writing this because sometimes I need to be reminded of this. I have been struggling at times recently in the studio, seemingly fighting with myself to find something that just doesn’t seem to be there. The harder I tried to find it, the further away it seemed. It was like I was looking for something to quell my anxieties and bring me some form of easy happiness. To bring me effortless joy.

I should have known better. Yesterday, I just put down my head and worked without thinking about the end result. I focused solely on my purpose in each moment, the task at hand. Concentrating on doing small and simple things with thought and care was my duty, as it were. As the day went on, my burden felt lessened and I began to feel joy in the work, joy in small aspects that I had been overlooking in prior days.

It was a satisfying day, one that left me feeling that I had moved in some way toward fulfilling a purpose. It may not be a grand, earth-shaking one but it doesn’t need to be. It is mine. My purpose. My duty.

And that is enough to bring me a bit of joy.

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Yesterday, we observed the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp near the end of World War II. an event which made clear the horrors that the Nazis had perpetrated on the Jews and other groups. One of the survivors of Auschwitz was Viktor Frankl, who went on to become an eminent psychiatrist and author.

His book, Man’s Search For Meaning, is one of my favorite books, one that brought more insight to the world of those who lived through the Holocaust. The lessons from it also helped me through the tough times in my life. The post below from several years back discusses the lesson of that book.

I urge you to read the book. You can even listen to the entire audiobook freely on YouTube. I have included it at the bottom along with a video presentation that gives a brief synopsis of some of the takeaways from the book. It’s short and well done. There is an ad for the Great Courses which takes up the last minute but it’s worth watching.

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GC Myers- The Moment's Mission 2011Everyone 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. A purpose.

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 or finishing a task they had set for themselves. 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 until years later when I finally found what I do now that I began to understand Frankl’s words and saw that I had purpose in this world as a husband, an artist and a person of feeling.

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

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Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is one of my favorite books, one that has helped me through the tough times in my life.  I’ve mentioned it here several times including the post below.  I thought I’d rerun this post from several years ago as it fits very well with the theme from my current show at the Principle Gallery, Part of the Pattern, which is that we live in a universe that is vast and chaotic, often making our existence seem small and meaningless.  Yet, if we can see how we fit into the underlying pattern that lays within the chaos, can find our purpose, our why, we can live a life of meaning.

I urge you to read the book.  You can even listen to it freely on YouTube.  One of the first installments is at the bottom to give you a taste.

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GC Myers- The Moment's Mission 2011Everyone 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 or finishing a task they had set for themself. 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 until years later when I finally found what I do now that I began to understand Frankl’s words and saw that I had purpose in this world as a husband, an artist and a person of feeling.

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

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe2R_R0kVaY&list=PLJl0vgwlPbB9vt7fefE3hR8HVT_bvPV5I

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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:

GC Myers- LifebloodWe 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 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…

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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 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

**********************

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 or finishing a task they had set for themself. 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 until 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

************

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…

Read Full Post »

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