“The Salvation of Man is through Love and in Love”

This quote is from Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s search for Meaning”. The book is an account of his time as a prisoner at Auschwitz where Frankl was a survivor. During his time in Auschwitz Frankl claimed that it was his ability to love others that gave his life meaning and that love can survive even in the most intolerable of human conditions.
Here is the whole paragraph from which the quote is taken:
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth–that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way–an honorable way–in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
Frankl claimed that love of others was the ultimate and highest goal to which a person could aspire and that much forms of depression and anxiety in life were a result of a loss of love in one’s life.
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Why read?

I find that one of the pleasures of reading is that it can open you to the perspectives of other people and in so doing I can catch a view of a world that is different from your own. Characters in a book can be like friends you have never met, they can console or give advice. I find there is nothing better than finding a character in a book that I can identify aspects of myself with and then share an exploration of their life as if it were my own. I read to travel in the space of other peoples minds.
Steve Dublanica,in his book “Waiter” has this wonderful, pithy quote that sums it up for me:
“The world’s a big place. You can’t do or be everything, nor should you. Life is bigger than any one man. But when you read about other people’s lives, when you read their stories, you catch a glimpse of a world bigger than your own. You may never travel a hundred miles from where you were born, but if you read stories, you’ll get to see the entire world.”
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Tonight I can write the saddest lines

There is a familiar saying that it is better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all.I am not sure that this is so true in the particular, I think it depends on the sort of love that you have had and lost, and how it affected you. But in general, then the advice is sound, living a fulfilling life requires being able to let go of past hurts and take the chance on loving again with all your heart.
Perhaps it is worth asking why we continue to love in the full knowledge that in loving someone we can get hurt again?I think that it is because we recognise that a large part of meaning in life stems from our relationships to others and in particular from finding someone who we can love and accept as they are, and who will love us and accept us in return.
This poem “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” by Pablo Neruda is on reflection the saddest poem that I have read.


Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, ‘The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tries to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.



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If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda



The last poem that I posted, “Shattered Head” conjured up feelings of betrayal and false love. Such feelings may also come when people fall out of love or one party decides to move on. Here is a much more balanced approach to love by Pablo Neruda. The idea conveyed here is that I will love you so long as you love me, but if your love departs, then mine will also.

If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

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Shattered Head

I love this poem called “Shattered Head” by Adrienne Rich. I didn’t understand all of it at first. It describes a person walking uphill in the heat of the day, and finding a skull, described as “a shattered head on the breast of a wooded hill.” The rest of the body has dispersed and is the source of new life, but rather than let that be the end of the matter, the last thoughts of the skull are revealed:

             And I believed I was loved, I believed I loved
             Who did this to us?
It is a haunting poem with allusions to time, beauty, love, betrayal, revenge, and death. The  most poignant suggestion is that the person on the hill once believed that they were loved, but were betrayed with the lines “breast of a wooded hill” hinting that the person who was trusted had a wooden heart.

One fear that many people have when starting out on a relationship is whether the other person will love them back to the same degree that they love. No one wants to suffer from unrequited love, or be taken in by false love. 

This poem captures the sense of false love and betrayal beautifully.

Here is the whole poem:

Shattered Head

A life hauls itself uphill
through hoar-mist steaming
the sun’s tongue licking
leaf upon leaf into stricken liquid
When? When? cry the soothseekers
but time is a bloodshot eye
seeing its last of beauty its own
a bloodshot mind
finding itself unspeakable
What is the last thought?
Now I will let you know?
or, Now I know?
(porridge of skull-splinters, brain tissue
mouth and throat membrane, cranial fluid)

Shattered head on the breast
of a wooded hill
Laid down there endlessly so
tendrils soaked into matted compose
became a root
torqued over the faint springhead
groin whence illegible
matter leaches: worm-borings, spurts of silt
volumes of sporic changes
hair long blown into far follicles
blasted into a chosen place

Revenge on the head (genitals, breast, untouched)
revenge on the mouth
packed with its inarticulate confessions
revenge on the eyes
green-gray and restless
revenge on the big and searching lips
the tender tongue
revenge on the sensual, on the nose the
carrier of history
revenge on the life devoured
in another incineration

You can walk by such a place, the earth is
made of them
where the stretched tissue of a field or woods
is humid
with beloved matter
the soothseekers have withdrawn
you feel no ghost, only a sporic chorus
when that place utters its worn sigh
let us have peace

And the shattered head answers back

And I believed I was loved, I believed I loved
Who did this to us?

Posted in Death, Loss, Love | Leave a comment
This is such a cool poem on loving someone and then moving on. For a time there remains the remnants of the love for the other person, but we do not wish to trouble them with this. “I do not with to cause you any pain.” Perhaps the love was hopeless and doomed to fail but we need to be able to move on and love again.

I loved you, and I probably still do,
And for a while the feeling may remain…
But let my love no longer trouble you,
I do not wish to cause you any pain.
I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew,
The jealousy, the shyness – though in vain –
Made up a love so tender and so true
As may God grant you to be loved again.

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Bukowski on Style

I really like this Bukowski poem on style. It capture the element of doing something and putting everything into what you do.

I especially like the final line that refers to a beautiful woman, walking out of the bathroom naked. I get the impression she is doing so confidently, perhaps because she is unaware that I am watching or that she is showing herself to me knowing that I admire her.

Style is the answer to everything.
Fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous day.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a
dangerous thing without style.
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art.
Bullfighting can be an art.
Boxing can be an art.
Loving can be an art.
Opening a can of sardines can be an art.
Not many have style.
Not many can keep style.
I have seen dogs with more style than men.
Although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.

When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a
shotgun, that was style.
For sometimes people give you style.
Joan of Arc had style.
John the Baptist.
García Lorca.
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of
Style is a difference, a way of doing, a way of being
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water, or you,
out of the bathroom without seeing me.

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