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Does Injustice Grant The Right To Do Wrong Or The Opportunity To Discover Inner Greatness?

Part 5 in an exploration of Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.

Rhonda Robinson


November 24, 2013 - 1:00 pm
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Frankl describes men who became instigators rather than the objects. They became the oppressors. Expressions often came out in insignificant ways.

“Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them. We had to strive to lead them back to this truth, or the consequences would have been much worse…”

Perhaps man’s redemption is buried in the truth that no man has the right to do wrong. No matter how much evil or sorrow is suffered. We have a choice. As Frankl pointed out, it’s in our sufferings that we are afforded a chance to obtain an inner human greatness that ordinary circumstances could never offer.

Frankl is right.

There is no amount of good that can compensate for the cruelty he and his fellow prisoners suffered. Nor can any amount of help given to orphans relieve the pain of a grieving mother. What is also true is that we each have to seek out goodness in the most tragic of circumstances.

The paradox is profound and hard to grasp intellectually. It must be lived to achieve. Therein suffering finds its purpose. The good that comes of it, cannot be assigned to us by others, or even pointed out. We must find it for ourselves.

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Before Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter died, he wrote this song to remind him to appreciate the moments he had left with his little girls. One can only imagine how sorrow has watered the truth embedded in this song for the Chapman family.


Join the conversation about Man’s Search for Meaning.


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Rhonda Robinson writes on the social, political and parenting issues currently shaping the American family. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in Middle Tennessee. Follow on twitter @amotherslife

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Mrs. Robinson, what I will cryptically say may be more of a private exchange, though entailing a surprise for you. I too read and was thrilled by Frankl as a college student a few eons back. I too have sought meaning and wonder if that is not my undoing, i.e., if finding THE meaning is really enabling me to deny something. What? In the frenzy of my youthful search there appeared Ernest Becker and his "Denial of Death" and, more troubling, his "Escape from Evil [death]" (you have not got to that troubling book yet, blessed be the ignorant). Becker's fundamental thesis is that any search for overcoming death -- and what could offer more meaning --, is a search masking the correlative madness of the human condition, and will lead the seeker into a path of self-obfuscating inauthenticity and, on occasion to detructive behavior (and Frankl was a vicitm of a very special sort of denial of death focused upon Jews as THE supposed bringer of demise, a focuing, however insanely extreme, done by humans seeking meaning). The real showdown is the coming to terms with the source of evil--a source that remains in the best of us. The Grimm Reaper, as the Boroque culture knew after the 30 Years War, is just around the corner.

Becker, to make my story short, suggests that the only probably safe role in life is that of the saint. Why? In effect the "saint" (no official titled implied) ceases to seek after meaning, rather lets it find him or her. In a Christian context, Jesus hanging with agony from the Cross become emblamatic of the human condition and, if all is so a Christianity claims, Jesus becomes the Christ the savior, not you nor I nor anyone. (I, alas, even think that even the saintly do not fully escape from the ravages of evil)

In order to visualize my thesis I urgently suggest that you and any interested reader obtain the film "To End Alll Wars [= death infliction]", a film based upon the true story of British prisioners in a Japanese prisioner camp during WW II with all its pronounced brutality. A enormously important drama developes between the spirit of Bushido (= extreme form of meaning) and the spirit of Christianity (with its relinguishing of trying). The charcters were but the actors fighting out this drama. After the film ends, an added section shows an old and retired Princeton president, former prisioner, meeting in joy and reconciliation a very old Buddhist monk, a former guard in the prision--real persons--and you will see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears what I am trying to say.
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