Chapter 256  …

Chapter 256      Man’s Search for Equanimity in Murder and Mayhem


Today, July 20, 2012, all the nation’s eyes are on the murders in a crowded Colorado Movie Theater screening of Director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises.  At least 12 people were killed and another 58 wounded when a heavily armed suspect identified as James Holmes, a 24-year-old Aurora resident who had been a doctoral student at the University of Colorado was arrested without putting up a fight at the theater moments after police came and found him in the parking lot.  If you are a witness to this, you may throw up your hands in hopelessness.


What can be said about such a man?  And so many unanswered questions…  For me, it is all about finding meaning in things, mostly positive of course, but nevertheless… even in tragedy.  People are assigning blame to so many and saying the killer was inspired by:  the movie, the comic character “Joker” or others in the comic strip “Batman”, the NRA, violent video games, The Tea Party, but I liked one comment I read on Yahoo!, “I am going out on a limb here, but maybe he was inspired by crazy.”… 


Some senseless actions by senseless people that cause unimaginable human suffering…where do you start to describe such actions?   And those looking for reasons may be frustrated.  Perhaps we just have to accept that there will be insanity with sanity, evil with the good, ugly with the beauty (as many Taoists and Buddists and Christians say, “Are we to only accept the good and not the bad?”.  And then we pray.  And then we hope. 


I really liked Dr. Viktor Frankl’s (1905-1997)  take on human suffering.  As many know, Dr. Viktor Frankl’s ideas came from his survival from the Nazi death camps.  While paying attention to those who did and those who did not survive (given such an opportunity), he wrote that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had it correct when he wrote:  “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” He saw that those who retained hopes of being reunited with loved ones, and those who felt they still had things they needed to do, or those who had great faith in their religion and God, apparently had better chances for survival than those who had lost all hope.  On a day like today, many in America and around the world may lose hope.  What is the meaning of all this senseless death in Colorado?  Dr. Viktor Frankel seemed to have experienced something quite similar in the WWII death camps and come to realize the significance that all life has meaning and must have meaning.

Probably he first encountered serious deprivation being in a situation where he was torn away from his wife and family at the start of the war…and then right after the loss of his manuscript – his life’s work – while his transfer to Auschwitz was happening.  He had sewn it into the lining of his coat, but it was taken and destroyed.  He spent so many nights in his future endeavoring to recreate it, whenever he had the chance.

Once, he wrote about a poignant moment while on an early morning march to work on laying down tracks for the railroad.  A prisoner wondered aloud about the fate of their wives.  Dr. Frankl started to think about his own wife, and came to the realization that she was present inside  him:

“The salvation of man is through love and in love.  I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world  still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved”

He later wrote:


“Meaning is something to discover rather than to invent.  It has a reality of its own, independent of our minds.  Like an embedded figure or a “magic eye” picture, it is there to be seen, not something created by our imagination.  We may not always be able to bring the image — or the meaning — forth, but it is there.  It is, he says, “…primarily a perceptual phenomenon. “


I aver that in my own moments of intense suffering where I yearned to search for meaning, it was the need to search for the meaning of my existence that was indeed helped by the intensity of what I went through.  It is almost as if my own soul and being were ripped away from reality and I could “feel it” as my pain and loss grew.

But, like Dr. Frankl, throughout my sufferings and my reading of others’ sufferings, those that were given a chance for survival, myself included, who held on to HOPE, a positive future vision, a reunification with their loved ones, and so forth had a much greater chance to survive their ordeals.

For Viktor Frankel, he wrote so interestingly that it would be the meaningfulness which could be found in suffering itself that would intensely strike him (almost in astonishment).  He wrote:

“There is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior:  namely, in man’s attitude to his existence, and existence restricted by external forces….  Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”

So perhaps today’s actions in Colorado by a young madman, perhaps just like the actions of Adolf Hitler and those German soldiers ordered into the Nazi Death Camps written about by Dr. Viktor Frankel, cannot ever be understood… but we must just accept them as part of reality.  That it happened…  There will be deliberation on what if anything we can do to avoid or minimize such occurrences in the future (and some changes may be instituted), but human suffering like that which happened today will always be with us.  And we should at least endeavor as a society to find meaningfulness in it…

Dr. Frankl lost his wife, parents, and family except his sister in the war, but after his survival of the death camps in he continued to influence society in a positive manner for many many more years and wrote some very influential books.  We can definitely take a chapter from his writing to find some meaning in what happened today.


About youngkim3000

I grew up in Virginia and went to a top tier high school, being so ambitious and wanting fame and fortune like the next kid. I received good grades and then I went off to the University of Chicago where I majored in Psychology and Economics. After a brief but successful "Wall Street" career, I realized that I was not happy and left thinking that a career in the medical field would satisfy me. Then, I did some post Bac work at Northwestern and UIC, and then ended up at UIC Medical School. The problem was I was not happy there either. The structure, the repetition, and lack of being able to be free and spontaneously creative really knocked me down. Having to be subject to constant subjective evaluations sucked my soul dry. As I sought another chapter in my life, then came the financial collapse of 2008-9 which destroyed the "nest egg" and saving that I had worked so hard to build after college--which I so "identified with". I was so depressed at the loss of career and the loss of money that I fell into self pity and a deep seated depression. For weeks on end, I could not even get out of bed. I went to many doctors who could not really help me. I took so much anti-depressant medication and also self medicated with alcohol to dull my mind. One day though, I went to the public library in Niles, IL, and picked up some books on "Self-Help". I figured what do I have to lose? I was already so depressed I could barely get through a day. I picked up books by Wayne Dyer (Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life), Deepak Chopra, Louis Hay, Ram Dass, Osho, and Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth), The Dalai Lama, and revisited my faith in Catholicism. I devoured so many books to unearth just why I was suffering so much. I learned so much about myself and realized that my deep suffering was actually a gift for me to discover myself. Simply put, those words in those books saved my life. I was taking so many drugs and my physical health was in serious jeopardy. I realized that I could not live with myself any longer, and I needed to be free. I realized...that it was my own thoughts that were making me so depressed, as was my own "life story" that I replayed over and over. I realized that my mind was busy creating negative thoughts. Thoughts are "things" and expand. I understood that you do not "normally" choose your thoughts. Just like the digestion of a meal, the mind automatically creates all kinds of thoughts whether you like it or not. Just like you do not "choose" to breathe with your lungs or "choose" to make urine from your kidneys, you "normally" do not "choose" your own thoughts. They just happen, just like digestion. And if you had a bad experience, your mind recreates the negative thoughts without your conscious consent but you are forced to relive them endless times per day. It is only through CONSCIOUS INTERVENTION that you can make your mind change course from recycling negative thoughts. This is just like your breathing. You breathe automatically, but you CAN choose to influence your breathing, you can hold your breath if you are going to dive deep in the water, or you can consciously "slow down" your breath if you are relaxing in meditation and prayer. Once I realized I did in fact have an ability to control my thoughts, I consciously redirected the thoughts to positive uplifting notions. I noted that I had built such a large ego that the collapse of it dragged me down in catastrophic fashion. A big ego is different from self esteem. Both were destroyed, but I learned to regain self esteem through positive affirmations and knowing that the negative thoughts are not reality. I was choosing definitively to live in the past via my repetitive thoughts. I was also choosing to live in an uncertain future that I painted with dreadful possibilities. I realized that if I live in the "now", the present moment, I really did not have any reason to be depressed at all. I discovered I really only live in the "now". The past and future are fictions. It is akin to a motorboat on the water on a lake. The "wake" that the boat produces is the past, my vision of the future is what I can see in front of me, but I really only exist ON the boat in the present moment. I was living my life only on the "wake" created many meters before. Soon, my self-pity slowly subsided as I learned to accept "what is" and not grasp for anything and everything that is valued by Society. I concurred that it was my own "expectations" not realized that were causing such waves of discontent. Once I dropped my self imposed sad "life story", my yesterdays, I came to my senses that there was no need to feel upset at all. That realization hit me like "a ton of bricks" and quickly lifted me out of the well, like a rope thrown down the dark walls of the deep well. I would like to share that it was only that single moment of enlightenment, a "satori" event that forever changed my life, but that was not so. It was a gradual climb out of the abyss (over about a year). I realized that my mind was like a superhighway of blazing thoughts that went through my mind over and over based on the recent past. While my "life story" was going great, I believed in those thoughts, and my ego grew such that I became arrogant and sometimes unkind. Then when my "life story" changed for the worse, I similarly believed in those new negative thoughts with the same passion (which hurt me so deeply throughout my waking hours). I noted to myself that this was why I craved so many "tranquilizers" and medicines that would halt my thoughts. I realized that I was drowning in my negative thoughts and that I was CHOOSING to believe in them. But I learned through focusing on positive affirmations, meditation and prayer, I did not need any more drugs to "halt" my mind from stabbing me to death. Through the filter of society's measure I had evaluated my own life, unable to fully realize that it was all a fiction that my mind had created. I was completely unable to live in the present before this profound awakening. My life had turned into a constant "replay" of the past, the anxiety of the uncertain future...and my destroyed ego. Because of my belief that my thoughts were the ultimate truth, I suffered so deeply... but needlessly. Once I changed the direction of my thoughts, everything changed. The way I looked at my own life changed. I realized that LIFE is not a long emergency where the one with the most toys at the end wins. I realized LIFE is something to be lived fully, and joyfully...not some series of problems to be solved. Once I realized these insights, I realized that I was the creation of my own depression. Although a devout Catholic, I am also deeply moved by the ideals of Buddhism. About Karma and "Dependent Arising"...both of which are also in the Bible (Galations 6, Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked, a person always reaps what they sow). And I was...for the better part of my life, a runaway train into disaster that I was blind to...that I had planted the seeds onto. Putting money, fame, accolades, trophies, and so forth as the ultimate end to my goals sowed the seeds of psychological calamity when the inevitable tides of change occurs in every life. A person who extols those superficial qualities dooms himself/herself to disaster. The only variable is "time". Would it take a long time to find yourself in a train wreck or a short time? It doesn't matter. What matters is how soon can you realize the truth of existence and your place in it...and rise above what Society tries to focus you to believe. Society always makes you compare yourself to others, Society never leaves you alone to just be yourself. You have to exert effort and unlearn what Society has poisoned you with. I am now doing various "work" (not holding down any soul sucking corporate job), teaching, making money through various income sources like buying items at rummage sales and reselling them through Craigslist, asking neighbors and doing work they need, trading stock options when my financial tools indicate that there is a good trade. I am not focused on any "ladder to climb" or any "prestigious career"...and I am so much happier and at peace. I'd rather be "waterboarded" that go back to Corporate America. I have also a solid equanimity, and i am OK with whatever happens, and thus accept what God and the Universe wish for me. I wish to share my newly found wisdom and hope that my story and my interpretation of my newly found contentment can benefit others and I also wish to hear similar stories of awakening. God Bless, thanks for reading my "profile" and leave me your stories of awakening. Outside somewhere is a field where all of us are the same, I cannot wait to see you there...Namaste...
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