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Mind's Labyrinth

“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.”
Viktor E. Frankl (Man's Search for Meaning)

Life is, for the most part, unpredictable. Yet we can always foretell and control our relations to this "unpredictability." We can understand that, in a sense, we always have access to a compass on this journey with no final destination.

Our intricate, labyrinthian minds are miraculous in their capacities to adapt and transform, enabling us to find meaning in all situations, even the most despairingly grim.

Beginning in 1942, Victor Frankl spent three years in four different concentration camps due to being Jewish at a time and in place when being so meant enslavement or death. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, describes the transformation of his mind whilst in a pit of hopelessness, death, and despair.

Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist before the start of 1942, so he understood the mind and the ways it communes with suffering. But we needn't be psychologists to understand and transform suffering, because we all have lifetimes of experience, and there are further case studies all around.

We can be mindful of the suffering in us, and around us, and look deeply into it. If we do, we will find the causes and gain the insights that can lead to meaning and liberation, as Frankl did.

That's not to say it's easy to gain meaningful realizations that lurk in such depths of suffering, as surely it wasn't for Frankl. But it is worth it. And quite often, it's needed so one isn't engulfed by their own oceans of suffering, as was the case for Frankl.

Nelson Mandela was a black man living in South Africa at a time when black South Africans were relegated to the very bottom of society by a racially oppressive apartheid government.

Mandela led the revolt against the inhumane injustices and defended those who were unfairly treated, and for that, he was imprisoned for 27 years.

At the beginning of his sentence, he was understandably angry and brash toward his captors. But despite gravely dehumanized conditions, an awakening took shape. While serving his sentence, Mandela disavowed his anger and remarkably found a deep well compassion inside himself.

Upon his release, he became South Africa's first president, orchestrating the end to apartheid and his people's tragic suffering, but only after coming to terms with his own.

These two men were human beings, just like you and I. We, too, then can transform our own hopelessness and despair into motivation, as Frankl did. We, too, then can turn our own frustration and anger into compassion, as Mandela did.

It all starts within. To create peace, we must be the peace we wish to create.


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