Tag Archives: logotheraphy

three philosophies

images-1Before calling it a day to say hello to a new tomorrow on a hard day’s night, to happen on this comic strip of my all-time favorite Peanuts seems almost too pat. Provident, even. It chimes the bells of my heart and soul that are dented with the shrapnel of existential vertigo in the most impressively elliptical way: that none other than simple tenets of life are needful to live a less stressful life.

As Sally elegantly puts: Life does not end at one fell swoop even if I stumble into an imbroglio of misadventures; any such mistakes or misdeeds betray that to err is human; and that I should not fall into the bottomless pit of worries and anxiousness, for tomorrows are always new with their own unknowns.

What Sally blithely professes strikes the chords of Logotheraphy, a 3rd Viennese school of psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl based on existential analysis focusing on ego qua meaningfulness, a purpose of living a meaningful life. With these simple but potent tenets of life in mind, I can say good-bye to this spent day with the alacrity of departure for nightly dreamscapes to rest myself.

The Beautiful World of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Moulin Rouge La Goulue 1891by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

On my desk now, I have a lovely little music box made out of a replica of Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge La Goulue 1891 that pleasingly plays “French Can Can” when I wind up a handle attached aside to the box. The sweet melody played from the vivacious four-color lithograph affords a delightful digression during my study, which sparks off the subsequent musings on the artist and the arts, self-proclaimed, would-be,and aspiring artists and the act of creation itself.

A creator of the arts is a solipsistic benefactor of humanity whose congenitally proud egotism is a grand collective reflection of his cultivated trauma, sadness, frustration, anguish, and anger. With this in mind, an artist is endowed with a certain kind of poetic license to be freely and respectfully egoistical because an act of creation – or sometimes referred to as “intellectual drudgery” – demands of an unusual degree of courage, imagination, imaginativeness, knowledge, confidence and patience, all in a frenzy of his imago already existing or incipiently forming, by pouring out everything that is in him unsparingly, furiously into his creation. In fact, creative originality of standing quality often reflects high resources of courage, especially when the artist will not yield to his formidable foe in the form of biological determinism. Such was a noble spirit of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), a French painter and illustrator who sublimated his existential cross into his glorious laurel through the medium of art, the creation of his own reality of the world as he saw and felt in his mind’s eye.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Anyone who is interested in the Post-Impressionist paintings by Cezanne, Gogh, and Gauguin, might have come across Lautrec’s bold but gorgeous posters of actresses and dancers of Paris cabarets and theaters during the Belle Epoch period (1870-1914). Lautrec’s inherited disabilities as a result of his aristocratic familial consanguinity blighted him with grotesque physical deformities and congenital weakness: a midget taking a feral resemblance to a cross between a bull frog and a monkey. If you think that this physical misfortune alone merits his artistry or self-inflicting sybaritic lifestyle, you are probably not seeing the forest for trees. True, that he was often too ill to paint any and frequently visited the brothel to dispel his existential loneliness due to his pronounced external features. However, it was his preservation of a sense of purpose in life and tenacious grasp on his artistic existence, his recognition of the values he possessed and talent to express them to mark his standing in the world. The wisely chosen attitude toward things that he could not change but accept speaks to our world of post truths, grand fustian narratives, fake news, and fleeting ambitions that demerits  courage and patience, which are the handmaids of genuine confidence as a reservoir of creativeness.

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Le Rire Les Grans Concerts De L Opera 1897  by Henri Toulouse Lautrec

Being an admirer of the works of this amazingly daring and talented artist, I believe anyone struggling to better the self can relate to a prodigy of courage and effort demonstrated by Lautrec at the darkest hours of his life, when in fact it was the most creative time of his artistic career as a highly sought-after illustrator of French entertainment industry that provided visionary artists and technicians the substantial grist for the mill of their subsistence. Into this dazzling new luminous conflation of art and technology staged Lautrec, lord of the blank space and the bold line, to claim his dominance as the bell epoch’s master of artistic poster designer not only of his time but also of our time. The capital difference between Lautrec and his contemporaries was his daring characterization of the models and ambience he portrayed; the individuality was in the expression of the colors, lines, and perspectives, making the subjects into work of new creation, elevating their planes and milieus into the artistic ether of exquisite beauty and peculiar charm, giving unforgettable impressions on the minds of the beholders.

Lautrec proves to be a human testament to triumph of will over biological/social inhibitions during difficult times. His decision to work through his sadness by painting comes closer to serving as a sovereign remedy to the existential ills than any other semblance to solution thereof. In light of the above, it occurs to me that to practice any form of art, however good or bad, is not a prerogative of a professional or publicly recognized artist with more than hundreds of followers. The actualization of ideation, i.e., an expression of yourself in writing or painting, is a noble act of claiming your sovereignty, your own intractably unique self that attests to your existence, a sense of purpose in life. A life is not fully realized unless you actually live through it by unlocking what’s inside you. Be it ever called a cathartic effect or solipsistic satisfaction through the medium of creative act, just as Aristotle defined the primary function of the Arts as an imitation of natural beauty. That is why I write, and so should you.

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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dickensian world of poverty is so abominably tenebrous that we tend to think of it simply as an anachronistic, if not antediluvian, work of fiction apropos of a bygone Victorian era, without translating its elemental essence of nobleness of human spirit that arises from predicaments into our own zeitgeist. The fictitious characters of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Pip are the embodiment of such resilience, phoenix-like spirits enduring sordid conditions that life could impose upon us to the extent possible. Spinoza, the Dutch thinker and watchmaker, once said that it is Amor fati, love of fate, by which man’s inner strength could raise him above his outward fate. In fact, Nietzsche centuries after corroborated by saying: “That which does not kill me only makes me stronger.” Given the above axioms, what if someone in our contemporary time a fortiori lives to tell such victory of human spirit? That was the reason that I chose The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. All of the aforesaid noble triumph of human spirit over existential horrors of life is substantively and stoically recorded in this compelling living memoir with all her spirit, with all her intelligence, and with all her heart.

The story starts as Walls invites us to board her memory train and travel back in times until we return to where we depart along the long and winding railroads of her windy but beloved past. We meet her charismatic, intelligent father whose engineering feats are passed in smolder by his ever independent, anti-establishment, recalcitrant spirit a fortiori emboldened by a spirit of Dionysian portion. The artistically inclined mother is all liberality: She is a devout Catholic – although far from being sanctimonious – and has a heart of gold, save a practical sense of the world. Then there are one brother and two sisters, all of whom are highly intelligent and well-behaved thanks to the moral upbringing by their parents. The parents do not have the gumption to support their children, let alone themselves in terms of economic security, which was the cause of the existential ills of the family, pushing Walls into a position of  a de facto breadwinner of the family.

What is most profoundly august about Walls through living amid the straits of constant economic insecurity, frequent threats of family separation by social agencies, and dangers of physical harassments was her strong sense of responsibility for her life and for her family that enabled her to endure the existential predicaments. Many people mired in such situations might have develop disputatious streaks of rebellion against everything ascribed to them. However, Walls and her siblings took different attitudinal values to their existential dilemmas: they held on to a sense of purpose and a tenacious grasp on togetherness nurtured by their yearning to achieve a higher aim in life. In fact, such attitude toward life corresponds to one of the tenets of Logotheraphy: in order to find a meaning of life however trivial or nihilistic it many seem, taking a different, constructive stance on what is ascribed helps us to rise above biological, social, and cultural inhibitions during a difficult times because we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to. Which also brings us back to Spinoza’s Amor fati axiom: a different approach to our suffering is sublimated into supremeaning of life in travails by believing in its meaning to every situation with will to live a meaningful life, which then ceases to be a suffering itself.

The literary merit of this memoir lies in its absence of unbridled namby-pamby outpourings of emotions in the narrative with a certain air of stoicism. Ironically, Walls’s frank, touchy-willy, matter-of-fact manner of discoursing her story belies her overwhelmingly heartrending heartaches, disappointments, and dismay smothered under factual descriptions of her past that renders the authority of truth and the power of reality without hindrance of prohibitive emotions that often results in fabrication. In her literary confession, Wall achieves catharsis by putting what was in her mind on pages after pages, pushing her pen through in expense of her will to come to terms with her parents, let alone herself, producing forgiveness of her parents’ wrongdoings and acceptance of their frailties in a package of love and tenderness.

All in all, Walls’ s message to her reader is clear: you can’t choose your fate, such as a family, but you can choose what to make out of what you are given. In one way or another, the story itself chimes the bells of emotions and thoughts of many of us: the problems and issues that the Walls had and the ones we have or had are not oranges and apples through our voyages of life. Walls shows us that notwithstanding all the vicissitudes of life, self-reliance, resilience, and determination helps us to sail through with cheerfulness and humor as handmaids to courage. This honest-to-goodness tale of a woman rising above the planes of her inhibitions speaks straightly to our hearts. This book is a one-of-kind testament to its veracity and quality that upon reading this book, you will feel as if you knew Walls telling a story with a sense of elemental kinship which you can relate to. Moreover, this bona fide memori gives us a sense of relief that no family is perfectly blissful, which resonates with Tolstoy’s view of families as inscribed on the first page of Anna Karenina: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

 

Time to Make the Donuts by William Rosenberg

Time to Make the DonutsTime to Make the Donuts by William Rosenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before Starbucks claimed a monopoly on franchised coffee-houses around the world, Dunkin Donuts had been arguably one of the most popular American food service franchises in the States as well as other countries. With its signatory Munchkins and famous slogan of “American runs on Dunkin” presented by Super Mario-look alike Fred the Baker (although he retired from the public in the late 90s), the famous coffeehouse brand has made its mark on the American urban culture thanks to its straight-talking, no-nonsense founder William Rosenberg who drew up his case history of being a successful entrepreneur against personal all odds in this simple but admirable memoir written during his last days of life while succumbed to a cancer.

Rosenberg’s business philosophy of what works and what does not in business to share with the public forms the basis of this book whose inception was first conceived by encouragement of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather in the 60s. Straightforward and enterprising he was, Rosenberg’s sharing of his own experiences with the reader for altruistic motive without a sense of entrepreneurial machismo is traceable in every chapter. What he lacked in formal educational background because he had dropped out of school at age fourteen in the height of the Great Depression in 1930, was compensated by the simple but timeless tenets of achievements: diligence, persistence, determination, risk-taking, diligence, innovation, vision, and passion. Surely, all of the aforesaid seems bromidic, but oftentimes, it is these simple elements of life that we oversee as trifle and insignificant without pondering over Leonardo Da Vinci’s truthful adage: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

In fact, there are parallels that the reader can make between Rosenberg’s elements of success and the three values for meaningful life in Logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy established by the great Viktor E. Frankl whose experience in Auschwitz was a testament to its veracity and validity of Logotherapy, which is to help us find a meaning of life by freedom of will and will to meaning. Throughout the book, Rosenberg emphasizes that it is what we do with the challenges that determine our failure of success because learning from errors is the sine qua non of success. Whatever the circumstances may be, a person can find a way to succeed, and it is attitude that makes it possible. Having a good-hearted but violent-tempered father did not stop him from going out of his way and establishing world famous Dunkin Donuts. This forthright attitude links to attitudinal value of Logotherapy signifying our triumph over biological, social, and cultural inhibitions during difficult times with a discovery of meaning of suffering by the way in which we respond to. That is, how we respond to challenges will make a heaven out of hell, a hell out of heaven.

Also, a sense of humor is a must-have for taking us a long way to succeed in life. “Work hard, play hard,” was Rosenberg’s mantra. Yet to put it lightly is to miss the gist of the meaning; humor is a prerogative of human that can help us take on a different view of life in a light-hearted way, so that we can be soundly assured that unpleasant things we may be going through are not everlasting and that they are occurring because there is a meaning to them. This, in fact, also relates to humor as a vehicle to turn our backs against emotional distress in life that may hamper our continuation of searching for a meaning of life. Whether or not Rosenberg might have been aware of Logotherapy in his lifetime, the reader will find at every turn analogy between Rosenberg’s business philosophy and Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy.

Philosophy aside, there is plenty of interesting information on how the brand name came up with, the origin of Munchkins, and revolutionary way of operating the stores . To illustrate, the catchy name of “Dunkin’ Donuts” came from “You dunk a donut,” Munchkins, previously called Dunkin Donuts Donut Holes sold for 19 cents per set, got the name of a character from “The Wizard of Oz” with the right to utilize the name exclusively in the food service business. After all, the famous Munchkins have become a household name throughout the States and achieved a unique status in the food firmament.

This is an interesting read that the reader will find both practically helpful in applying Rosenberg’s elements of success to his own set of principles for betterment in life and entertaining to discover the history of the franchise in pastime. The reader will also find that the narrative will reflect the author’s artlessness, cleverness, and forwardness in this engaging book that matches its topic worth the writing.

For Love of Fate: Book review on Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for MeaningMan’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many books are to be tasted or swallowed, whereas certain books are to be chewed and digested for the nourishment of our minds and souls, such as Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, the founder of Logotheraphy, the third Viennese School of Psychoanalysis, along with Freudian psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology, that deserves of its recognition of being one of the books of our time for its content as well as its origin. This book is not of survival literature of the Holocaust but of a memoir of a courageous human soul that did not succumb to despondency. It is less about what he suffered and lost as a prisoner at four concentration camps during World War II than it is about the sources of his intention to live through it, attesting to the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Man’s Search for Meaning is a fruit of Frankl’s resilient soul ever resisting the existential horrors of situations that life could afford; whenever the miserable conditions of the camp suppressed the spirit, Frankl diverted such negative energy to reconstructing the manuscript which he had lost in the disinfection chamber of Auschwitz and scribbling the key words in shorthand on tiny scraps of paper. In fact, it was a way of intensifying his inner life full of intellectual resources and spiritual freedom to which he could retreat from his terrible surroundings by forcing his thoughts to turn to another subject, which made him enable to rise above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment.

In addition to the willful act of deluding anxiety and negative feelings, Frankl ensures us that a sense of humor is another of the soul’s weapon in the fight for self-preservation and can afford an aloofness and an ability to transcend any situation, for developing a sense of humor and seeing things in humorous light is a kind of trick learned while mastering “the art of living.” That is, by laughing about any sordid or callous situation, we ease our mental distress and are able to take on a different stance on the situation in a less negative way that is essentially not overwhelmingly stressful or unbearable. After all, humans are the only biological organism that can laugh, and thus this sense of humor is our prerogative as human.

It is also interesting to learn that the prisoners who did their utmost best to look good even in the sordid surrounding survived the dreadful experience because they looked “fit” for survival. This act of grooming links to will to meaning – that is, a will to live- that has physiological bases of psychic energy which rejuvenates the body and the spirit to see a why to live. On the other hand, there was a young inmate in the camp whose sudden loss of hope and courage to live affected his already typhus-stricken body so adversely that such mental condition lowered the man’s temperature and resistance against typhus, which ultimately caused his premature death. This episode shows us that what we believe becomes our truth and thus can alter our reality with another one, a virtual reality as a product of psychosomatic effect, which also links to the three sources for meaning of life as follows:

Creative Value – Doing something meaningful, such as Frankl’s scribbling the manuscript
Experiential Value – Appreciating beauty of the Arts or love, such as his thinking of his wife in another camp whenever he was on the verge of falling into an emotional distress; and
Attitudinal Value – Triumphing over biological, social, and cultural inhibitions during difficult times, such as Frankl’s endless efforts to divert his thought to another object of lofty value. It is this value that gives to our sufferings meaning by the way in which we respond to.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl testifies to Nietzsche’s dictum as aforesaid that suffering can grow out of existential frustration in the sense that there is a point to sufferings, that there is a hidden meaning in the guise of suffering, as there is only one right answer to the problem posed by the situation at hand. The essence of existence, which is search for meaning of life, underlies our awareness of a possibility against the background of reality – that is, what we can do about our given situations, not depending on the happenstances. Our emotions, which are interpreted as suffering, cease to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it by applying the three sources for meaning of life. Viewed in this light, this book is a veritable guide to how to overcome the struggles of our lives and achieve demands imposed upon our daily tasks however insurmountable they seem, which gains utmost credibility against the backgrounds of his own anguish in Auschwitz.