What Can’t Be Taken

When Viktor Frankl arrived at Auschwitz in 1942, about 90% of the prisoners in his transport were immediately sent to the gas chamber.


The 10% who survived were then stripped of all their possessions. Wedding rings, heirloom jewelry, even clothing and shoes were confiscated.


For Frankl, this also meant turning over a manuscript he’d written that was ready for publication. His pleas that he had to keep it at all costs, that it contained his life’s work, fell on deaf ears.


◼️◼️◼️ That loss – among so many others – was devastating. But Frankl also realized that, “When we are no longer able to change a situation…we are challenged to change ourselves.” ◼️◼️◼️


He rose to that challenge, tapping into his deep desire to write his book anew, which helped him survive the rigors of the concentration camps. He spent the next few years jotting down notes on little scraps of paper intended to help him rewrite the manuscript, should he live to see liberation.


The process of reconstructing the manuscript gave him something to live for and (according to him) even helped him survive a bout of deadly typhus fever.


Maybe the pandemic has taken something from you. Your loved one…your health…your job or business…your financial security. Maybe even your life’s work, like Frankl and his manuscript.


◼️◼️◼️ No matter what the coronavirus pandemic has taken from you, however, there are a few things it cannot touch: your mission and your meaning. ◼️◼️◼️


According to Frankl, you have a mission in life which demands fulfillment. You cannot be replaced. Your life cannot be repeated. Your task is as unique as your specific opportunity to implement it. Coronavirus or not, your mission remains.


And your meaning is yours to make. It differs from person to person, even moment to moment. No matter what, however, “There is nothing in the world…that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.”


◼️◼️◼️ So much was taken from Frankl during the Holocaust. His pregnant wife, his brother, his parents, all his worldly possessions, his life’s work in the form of his confiscated manuscript. Yet his mission and the meaning of his life remained: To help others find the meaning of theirs. ◼️◼️◼️


Ultimately, he not only reconstructed his manuscript (which became “The Doctor and the Soul”), he reconstructed a life. And a pretty meaningful one, at that. You can, too.


No matter what else is taken, your mission and meaning will be yours to keep.


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