Today, it was my turn – rather ‘good fortune’ – to stand in the queue outside my bank. Yes, it was chaotic and it was quite frustrating, too. It took about ninety minutes for me there. But, let me tell you honestly, this: I did not blame my government or my bank or the ATM or, for that matter, my own fate… On the contrary, a good thing happened to me when I was patiently waiting in line… I remembered Dr. Victor Frankl after a very long time. His book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ used to be my constant companion in early nineties… Yes, the message from this book sprang up, making it more and more relevant in my life…
For those, who have not heard about Dr. Frankl or his book, here is a brief: Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. His entire family was wiped out in Hitler’s gas chambers… but, he, somehow, survived… yes, as a skeleton! Post Holocaust, Dr. Frankl spent his years evolving his famous healing theory called ‘Logotherapy’ and, wrote his path-breaking book, ‘Mans’ Search for Meaning’.
So, today, as many men and women, including the elderly and the poor, waited with loads of patience, hope, dignity and grace in the queue, I could see the ugly scenes too… and, sadly, it was from young and so-called educated ones. I could hear them ranting and abusing the bank staff that seemed a lot helpless to handle the situation… “What is their fault, why are you abusing them?” asked a gentleman who apparently did not like what he was seeing and hearing.
I was more in touch with what was going on in my own mind… Was I not facing inconvenience and was I not frustrated? I was. Did I react the way some young-ones did? No, I didn’t.
I recalled the central message from Dr. Frankl’s book... “This is the core of the human spirit: If we can find something to live for - if we can find some meaning to put at the center of our lives - even the worst kind of suffering becomes bearable.”
Why did these few young, educated men and women show such intolerance while significantly large number of people, including elderly and the poor, show so much grace and bore their pain with dignity? After all, it wasn’t’ a hopeless situation like the one Dr. Frankl had faced in the gas chambers… Right?
I remembered Dr. Frankl’s humbling description…
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through 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 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.”
Are these ‘Achhe Din’ are these ‘Bure Din’?
My heart smiles as I remember what Dr. Frankl had, once, famously recommended … that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast of the United States be complemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast…
In life hardship and pain are a great leveler, you see!
Pic.: Chetna Shetty