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Are You Worthy of Your Sufferings?

Part 2 in an exploration of Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.

by
Rhonda Robinson

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October 21, 2013 - 10:00 am
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suffering

Part I: Could You Find The Meaning Of Life Through The Stench Of Death?

“Fundamentally, therefore, any man can even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, ‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.’”

The common charge against the goodness of God, is that of human suffering. Could only a world without pain provide evidence that God is good and loving? The underlying assumption is that all suffering and sorrow is evil.

A distinction must be made — evil inflicts suffering. Not all suffering is destructive–or evil.

“You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes us to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child…”

– CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

It’s human nature to desire comfort and happiness. Most of us spend our days seeking the sort of happiness in this world as Lewis calls  ”comfortable guests” who live “happy in our own way.” And yet often we can have that along with many physical comforts, and still hold misery deep inside that can’t be explained or fixed by anything external.

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All Comments   (14)
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Brings to mind what I consider my Life Verse;

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1: 2-4
31 weeks ago
31 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Have you, or anyone you know found deeper meaning in their suffering then they did in their happiness? Or, as Dostoevski put it, was worthy of their suffering?"
I have been reading Dawn Eden's book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. She and her friends, the communion of saints, are worthy of their suffering.
33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
I still have a dog-eared copy of Frankl's book in a 1968 paperback. 45 years on and it remains a staple in my library.

What is the background and source of the painting of the two men in your second part of this series? I find it very moving.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
"45 years on and it remains a staple in my library."

I can see how it would. Mine is brand new--dog-eared and highlighted-- a new treasure in mine.

That picture struck me as well. I don't know much about it other than the title is "Escape From Nuclear War." It is by an Italian photographer with the signature "Stokkete" I found it on Shutterstock.com

41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can relate to this. While facing death years ago I realized that love is the only thing worth dying for – consequently it is also the only thing worth living for. To know and be known, relationally, is the highest purpose we can strive for in this short life. Yet all relationships are unavoidably affected by that one most important relationship (whether present or absent) with the divine.

Apart from suffering I would never have had this realization.

There is only one system of belief which puts “love one another” above achievement, in the place of utmost importance (John 13:35). All others, religious or not, tend towards isolation.

http://goo.gl/eOK97P
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because you brought God into the conversation, I'd like to point out that this is where the claims of Christianity stand out against all other worldviews, religious or not.

Only Christianity dares to claim that God has entered into our sufferings - that he is no stranger to poverty, injustice, and even death.

I'd also like to point out that even if we can't imagine a good reason for suffering, it would be incredibly arrogant of us to conclude that therefore there can't be a good reason.

While in the midst of his suffering, Frankl recounts that "for the first time in my life I saw the truth... that love is the ultimate and 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."

http://goo.gl/X0O0ha
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is nothing I can add Pentheus. You said it so well. It really does boil down to the essence of life is in our loving one another.

"Only Christianity dares to claim that God has entered into our sufferings - that he is no stranger to poverty, injustice, and even death." Such a paradox, yet one almost has to actually experience it in the fullest to grasp the reality of it.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
No one deserves to suffer.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie, it's best to read more than the title of a post before commenting.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh Charlies, not even a pope has ever been able to pontificate, apparently with such self-assured certainty and so succinctly, such an all-embracing truth (or non-truth). 1. Your wisdom here is irrelevant. People suffer, deserving or not. So, what to do about it? A moralism helps not. 2. Your Buddha-ism with all its "changing" terminates the substantiality, viz., continuance of any "one" (remember, all is changing, just like your shoes) who can really suffer, a "one" being but an illusion of Maya or whatever. 3. Look up the sources given below re Gorecki and let your eyes feast upon the the remenant leftovers of those human shoe-like someones who suffered under Hitler and you will conclude, I hope, that Hitler, if no one else in the entire history of the "big and bigger" cosmos, deserved some suffering, if, indeed, not a HELL of a lot of it. Charlie, my surreptious nihilist, you and I will survive for another day and another crossing of swords or old shoes. I am a no-thing-ist which, as shall be revealed, is actual infinity. -- Confess, you do not have the slightest idea of what I am talking about.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Can I find meaning with the stench of death in my nostrils? I will, Mrs. Robinson, up you one here. Turn to YouTube and look up "Henryk Gorecki - III Symfonia (Symfonia Piensi Zalosnyc, Symp ..." . Gorecki as a Polish boy was sent to visit Ausschwitz many times. The sicking stench was there, but what effected the young Gorecki so disasterously was not so much seeing the gardens planted for food between the barracks firtilized by human ashes, rather the pathways he had to walk on, namely pathways constructed of human bones, i.e., Gorecki felt the "boney" pressure of death on his feet. The Nazies allowed no escape from the awareness of death. Remember also that, besides the 3 million+ Polish Jews killed in the Auschwitz complex , some almost 2 million Polish non-Jews and ca. another million Slaves or all sorts were also eliminated there or in Poland proper. If one turns to this 22 minute video one can hear part of Gorecki's "Song of Sorrows" from his 3rd Symphony (used in a film on the Holocaust) but also his narrative (with English subtitles). I can guarantee that the camera shots panning the destruction of humans towards the end of the clip will leave the viewer shaken up by deep, profound sadness boardering on madness. But, do not stop there. Listen not only to Gorecki's words, but to his symphony. This will require seeking out more of the man's composition.

Next turn to "Gorecki, Symphony Nr, 3 "Sorrowful Songs" lento - largo". Polish musicians play this sorrow in an Auschwitz building (first time) accompanied by a beautiful voice singing the scribbing in a Gestapo jail by a young lady. This clip is dedicated to all who died there and through out Poland. But, sorrow is not the last word. Why?

Gorecki was religious (he is now, alas, deceased), a Catholic and found meaning in the "Sorrowful Songs" that celebrate human life, though life murdered in stench and bones. Aware of the sinfulness of humankind Gorecki wrote an incomparable Mass, "Miserere" in a slavic manner, a way neither Western Gregorian nor Russian Orthodox. Just Polish! Gorecki wrote haunting music that does allow one to transcend the stench of death with a wiff of "deep, profound eternity" (Mrs. Robinson, you will understand my words here), the only thing that can allow some redemptive transcendence of the madness and horror, not its denial or represssion from memory. I offer Gorecki as my witness for life.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I can guarantee that the camera shots panning the destruction of humans towards the end of the clip will leave the viewer shaken up by deep, profound sadness..."


It's hard for me to discern which is more disturbing-- the horrific state of the victims or the wicked indifference of those handling them. These are clearly not images often displayed. The combination of the Symphony and the images leave a profound imprint on one's soul.

Yes Prof. you have more than upped me by "one."
The life that formed this man is hard for me to comprehend. However, I will submit to you one point of consideration.

Could it be that, our Creator endows each of us with the same measure of propensity to turn sorrow into joy? The difference is not in the individual, as we might easily assume.

Rather, it is as Frankl observed. No matter what sorrow, or horror circumstances assault us the one thing that can not be taken is our spiritual freedom to make a moral choice within-- how to respond to those circumstances. I submit, that with each small choice that inner strength grows.

We all start out with the same measure—it must be consciously kneaded to rise.

In the beginning of the book, Frankl tells of his decision of NOT fleeing the country to safety when he had the opportunity. Instead, he chose to stay, and not leave his parents behind to suffer their fate alone. Instead, he chose what he considered to be the correct moral choice to honor his mother and father. I suspect that was not the first hard moral choice he made. We know it certainly wasn’t the last.

Also, I noticed that Gorecki was clearly still disturbed by the evil he was forced to grow up in. And yet, his heart was not hardened like those we saw in the film carrying bodies.

Gorecki is an phenomenal witness for life. Thank you for introducing him to me, I have been listening to his Sorrowful Songs for the last couple of days.



43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I just notiched something in the 22 minute video of Gorecki, some of his symphony and a panning of the camera on Jewish possessions left behind. The camera came upon a small luggae with the name of M. Frank from Amsterdam. It is possible that the piece of luggage was that of Anne Frank's older sister Margot Frank who died in 1945 in a concentration camp. That strikes home to my feelings.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think you very well could be right. I took a screen shot of it.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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