4.22.2007

Choices

A book arts colleague sent me an email recently that included this quote from Viktor Frankl (from Man's Search for Meaning):
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 away 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.
This immensely profound statement reminded me, yet again, that (thankfully) under very different circumstances, I can choose how I present myself to others every day, every moment. When someone asks "How are you?", I can choose to relate my latest annoyance or complaint about the state of the world, my health, the latest service foul-up(aren't our lives full of these?), or I can elect to say "I'm well," and feel fortunate that, whatever else may be going on, this statement is fundamentally true most of the time.

This is by no means an ode to denying negative feelings or being a Pollyanna in the face of major distress or sadness. We should have outlets for these, of course, and those who care about us should understand. And certainly there's a time and place for airing minor annoyances -- so much of this is about context, isn't it? But the proportion of what I've come to call "mosquito bites" to major stress is, for most of us, infinitesimally small. We're blessed that this is the case, so why not act like it?

I'm better about this than I used to be, but I have a long way to go, which is why I welcomed seeing Frankl's quote again. It's a good reminder to put things in perspective.




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lily said...
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