A Hint From Heaven
I’m terrible at reading books. I have a hard time sitting still and allowing myself to be swept away with the subject matter. However, there is one book that I force myself to sit down and read every couple of years: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. If you’ve never heard of it, it is most definitely worth a read. It is the story of a psychiatrist Holocaust survivor that first covers his experience of being in a concentration camp and then follows with an exploration on his concept of Logotherapy — that one’s main motivation in life is striving to find meaning — and that there is the ability to find meaning in every situation…even the most miserable ones.
I recently re-read the book a few weeks ago and caught something in the preface this time around that really piqued my interest. The relevant excerpt is below:
The reader may ask me why I did not try to escape what was in store for me after Hitler had occupied Austria. Let me answer by recalling the following story. Shortly before the United States entered World War II, I received an invitation to come to the American Consulate in Vienna to pick up my immigration visa. My old parents were overjoyed because they expected that I would soon be allowed to leave Austria. I suddenly hesitated, however. The question beset me: could I really afford to leave my parents alone to face their fate, to be sent, sooner or later, to a concentration camp, or even to a so-called extermination camp? Where did my responsibility lie? Should I foster my brain child, logotherapy, by emigrating to fertile soil where I could write my books? Or should I concentrate on my duties as a real child, the child of my parents who had to do whatever he could to protect them? I pondered the problem this way and that but could not arrive at a solution; this was the type of dilemma that made one wish for “a hint from Heaven,” as the phrase goes.
It was then that I noticed a piece of marble lying on a table at home. When I asked my father about it, he explained that he found it on the site where the National Socialists had burned down the largest Viennese synagogue. He had taken the piece home because it was a part of the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. One gilded Hebrew letter was engraved on the piece; my father explained that this letter stood for one of the Commandments. Eagerly I asked, “Which one is it?” He answered, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land.” At that moment I decided to stay with my father and my mother upon the land, and to let the America visa lapse.
I’m someone who is arguably too logical. I like to come to decisions by looking at all the details, data and view-points. As I’ve gotten older (I’m the blistering age of 28 and three quarters) and encounter more difficult problems I’ve come to realize that at best I can only be 80% confident in my decisions that are truly dilemmatic.
This “hint from Heaven” line really stuck out to me in this regard. Instead of focusing on the doors for which the universe has decided to close for me — what are the hints to potential doors opening? In the example of Frankl above: I think he knew he wanted to stay with his parents and needed a pseudo-random third party reinforcement for which to get him over the edge. This hint from Heaven is seemingly just a bubbling up of Frankl’s true [potentially subconscious] desire.
Anywho — putting my thoughts to print just to talk out loud. Or is it aloud? I think its out loud. Only about 80% sure, though.