Some notes on Logotherapy – Pt 2

Read part one.

Logotherapy seems immediately relevant to another area of interest that I am pursuing right. Next week is the last of five modules that I have taken in order to become a Spiritual Care volunteer in the Fraser Health region. Within the next few weeks I hope to be working on the medical ward at the local hospital. As I read Man’s Search for Meaning I couldn’t help but find a wealth of thoughts that I think will become incredibly beneficial to working with patients who are probably at two of the most difficult stages of life: illness and death. Frankl’s personal experience of suffering in four different concentration camps during World War II and his subsequent reflection on the role of suffering in human life is fascinating.

For example, Frankl writes:

  • “Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances [as a concentration camp], decide what shall become of him–mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski [sic] said once, ‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” (75)
  • “Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.” (76)
  • “When we are no longer able to change a situation–just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer–we are challenged to change ourselves.” (116)
  • “It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has a meaning.” (117)
  • “There are situations in which one is cut off from the opportunity to do one’s work or to enjoy one’s life; but what never can be ruled out is the unavoidability of suffering. In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end.” (118)

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The Ordinary Ways are Safer, More Perfect.

An excerpt from Thomas Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

We have to remember the principle that certain desires and certain pleasures are willed for us by God. We cannot live in the truth if we automatically suspect all desires and all pleasures. It is humility to accept our humanity, pride to reject it.

Von Hugel, in one of his letters, writes of W.G. Ward (“Ideal Ward”) as an “eager, one-sided, great, unintentionally unjust soul” who on his deathbed saw the mischief of his life–he had consistently demanded that all others be like himself!

This is the root of inhumanity!

It is often more perfect to do what is simply normal and human than to try to act like an angel when God does not will it. That is, when there is no need for it, except in the stubborn passion of our own impatience with ourselves.

It is not practical, it is not honest, it is not Christian to fly from “every desire” and “every pleasure” that is not explicitly pious.

For others who are human enough to be ascetics without losing any of their humanity, it is all right to risk things that seem inhuman. For one as deficient and self-conscious as I am, the ordinary ways are safer. They are not just an evasion to be tolerated; they are the more perfect way.