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Through Love

This past week, the office has been very busy. I am not sure if the traffic was due to the passing of the full moon or the upcoming Fourth of July holiday or people were just plain sick. A couple of the staff members were out for various reasons, and we needed to patch the holes with temporary agency fill ins. Life rolled like a freight train through rural Alabama: no stops. The week seemed like a minute, every minute seemed like a week.

Time is a peculiar measurement. It is actually a measure of position. The Earth revolves around the sun, each complete revolution of the earth's spin gives us another sunrise in the East. Each morning brings new opportunities for us all in one form or fashion. Some of us experience tragedies, others joy and still others are just enslaved to the monotony of another day. One thing is certain, no two days at The Stone are the same. Ever!

During my three-year divorce adventure from the mother of my children, I read a book entitled Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I had awakened to the notion that life was meaningless. It was a dark time in my early forties that held nothing but turmoil and drama, every minute seemed like forever, every week passed in the split of a second. As I look back on it now, the entire experience seems to be locked away in some old wooden chest buried beneath my conscious mind. The experience has taken its place next to all the other wreckage that happened in my past. I am thankful that I do not have to revisit the experience over and over again.

Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who was sentenced to a Nazi concentration camp (Auschwitz) during World War II. He coped with his imprisonment by making observations about his fellow prisoners and writing down what he thought was the principle reasons for the survivors to survive the ordeal. I cannot imagine being in a concentration camp and writing a book about the search for meaning of my life or anyone else's life for that matter. But Frankl did just that. Perhaps writing the book was his meaning or purpose to stay alive in such deplorable conditions. Never-the-less, he did it.

One of his passages relating to his existential epiphany about what it takes to survive in a horrible situation has stuck with me for the years following my divorce: 

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."

For those of you who read this blog, know that there are times when everything seems to be desperate. Despair creeps into your consciousness and will not let loose of your every thought. I have been in those places more than once in my life. Remember that the salvation of Man is through love and in love. Love has many flavors and dimensions, but it is real. Once you have touched love, felt love and have been consumed by love, it will serve you throughout your entire life, even if that episode of love was for just one brief moment. It will give you the strength to endure the worse pain, the most severe suffering and the agony of taking another breath or another step on your journey. Never give up on love, it will never give up on you.

When I evaluate new patients, I frequently ask, "If you get well, what will you do with your life? You've been so ill, you haven't been able to really live." I am amazed at some of the answers I have heard over the years, but I have never hear this answer, "I want to love more, deeper, and experience love in the most profound way possible."

For anyone going through a tragedy, illness, or imprisoned in some toxic relationship, you can endure anything if somewhere there is love in your life. It only takes one person to love to give you the strength to get through the next moment of the next hour of the next day of the next week of the next month of the next year. Viktor Frankl did it. You can do it.

Some parts of our lives are meant to end. Some parts of our lives are meant to begin. No one can experience a beginning unless something has ended. Relationships that are built on a foundation of love will endure. Those relationships without the foundation of love will eventually end in order for love to find its way into the hearts of those who survive. It has been this way since the dawn of mankind.

And it will remain this way until the end of time. Thank you Viktor Frankl.

Doc

 

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