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The One Thing that Can't Be Taken From You

It's easy and natural for me to see the glass as half-empty, even at the same time that I clearly see that's it half-full too. I guess I'm like Antonio Gramsci in that "I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will." (I'm reminded of a couple more quotes I vaguely remember that went something like "a pessimist is an optimist who's opened his eyes" and "a pessimist is just another word for realist", but I don't remember who said either of them.)

My wife, who's home tending our feverish 4-yr-old, emailed me at work an excerpt from a sermon about fear in which Viktor Frankl is discussed:

I am inspired by the life of Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who became a famous psychotherapist using lessons he learned while in a concentration camp. In the camp one day he made a discovery. He was naked and alone in a room. He realized then that his captors could do what they wanted to him, but how he interpreted it, and how it became a part of his consciousness was ultimately up to him. Frankl writes of his inspiration: "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 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." That man or woman sharing their bread—the staff of life, they were starving too, but they were also encouraging others to choose life. By their actions they were choosing to share that life with others, to regenerate life. Theirs was a path of love.

Thanks, love. It's good to be reminded of both the capacity for human decency of which we are all capable (and which is always being enacted by many of our species in quiet ways we'll never know, especially in times of stress), as well as the fact that reality is vitally intertwined with our perception of it — and that both are ultimately matters of our own choosing.