With thanks to Viktor Emil Frankl
I read of a man who survived the camps,
those places of deep and monstrous cruelty
where unspeakable crimes were performed each day
with callous, regimented regularity,
where children were not nurtured but starved,
where the fires burned and showers emitted gas,
where the spirit could so easily be lost
in a deeply incomprehensible, thick morass-
what he said was so extraordinary
it made my heart stir and spirit rejoice.
"There is one thing," he said, "they can never take.
It is yours alone and that is choice."
He said: "There were men who walked through the huts
and gave away their last morsel of bread,
proof sufficient that what cannot be taken
is the choice of which life to lead.
"The last of the human freedoms is
to choose one's attitude for every day.
No matter the given circumstances,
there is the freedom to choose your way,
"to choose to submit or not to powers
which threaten to rob you of your humanity,
to make you a mere plaything of circumstance
through your renouncing of freedom and dignity."
I knew then that if this man could so think
in such a scene of unspeakable tragedy,
then in choice there is power or degradation,
base horror or defining beauty
and we make choices about who we are,
to desire beauty, love, joy, kindness
or favour selfish power and desire
above patience, peace and gentleness.
Even then when fools or oppressors rule
we can choose to gaze upon the sky's blue light
or when thick darkness threatens to envelope
there is still velvet wonder in the night
and always the mysterious communion of hand on hand,
always beauty in endurance and solemnity,
always the awareness of what can never be taken,
the human transcendence of love and dignity.