Inspiring books… some thoughts

Books are inspiring.  They are magic carpets to new worlds and galaxies of possibilities.  They are also an abundant source of inspiration and inspired thinking.

These three books introduce very inspiring people and ideas, in very different worlds:

1. Viktor Frankl.  Man’s search for meaning. 

Written by a psychologist and holocaust survivor, this book gives context to his theory of Positivism within the most trying of human experiences – the Holocaust.

This book starkly contrasts the prisoners suffering  under atrocious conditions with the seemingly indifferent captors, torturing the prisoners.

There is however light and hope in the book , and its in the strength of the human spirit, despite the situation.  Frankl’s observation was that those who had something of great significance and meaning to hold onto in their lives were more able to physically survive the horrors than those who didn’t have meaning to hold onto.

He describes this “meaning” as firstly, a deep belief in and love for another person, and the hope that they would be reunited.
Secondly, it was a sense of meaning in their lives – a belief that their lives had purpose which they could eventually return to.

It was this meaning which carried them through the torture.

Is this significant still today?
Is love and a purpose significant in everyday  “normal” life?

Perhaps we can be so lucky as to learn from the observations without experiencing the horror ourselves.   

Love, relationships and a sense of purpose in the world.   
For me, this book is a timeless reminder of what is profoundly important to us.

2.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The Future is in Forgiveness.

A book by a South African icon, about the country’s way of dealing with the horrors of the past. The Ärch” was intricately involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and his book not only gives an interesting overview of the process, but (like book 1) also presents the reflections of a man, who through his suffering, has come to some timeless conclusions about humanity.

The book describes the TRC process, as well as giving context to the horrors of Apartheid through some atrocious examples of actual TRC cases.
Like book number 1, it is often very harrowing and distressing to read.   The conclusions he draws, as hinted at by the title, are that forgiveness is as much about the forgiven as the forgiving.  Yet through his own personal narrative and implications throyughout the book he shows how difficult real forgiveness truly is.

As a white, privileged South African, growing up and educated during the Apartheid era, and therefore falling into the “perpetrator” camp, the book had an impact on me in an intense way.   This involved shame, deep shame, remembering the complexities of this country and our identities intricately wound up (and wounded) in all of this, and relief and grattitude for where we are now…. but this is a topic for another blog!

Like the first book, the conclusions and ideas about how to live a fulfilling and peaceful – and I would go as far as saying moving toward a joyful – life have come out of brutal, harsh atrocities and suffering.

Forgiveness is about releasing oneself from pain.  It is therefore liberating and healing in itself.

Do we have to suffer to find meaning in life?
Do we have to suffer to find joy?
Does sufferering necessarily lead to a deeper experience in life?

The next book does not involve ANY intense physical suffering or human depravity (thank goodness!).  It is about passion and inspiration…

3. ELif Shafak. The Forty Rules of Love

A “whirling dervish” literally whirls into Rumi’s life and creates internal – and external – changes that will take his poetry to a new level of depth and beauty.