One Disability Compounds Another

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I am struck by the fact that one disability compounds another. My bladder packed up again and they have chopped me up again. I’m surrounded by tubing and tape. I also can’t see what I’m doing which makes the whole business complex and limiting.

More than that I was given the opportunity to have an experimental eye implant but my bladder surgery and complications ruled that out this week and they have passed me by.

Not a great moment.

It makes me think of that remarkable book "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. The most important book I read in my life, I think it’s original title was something like "From Death Camp to Existentialism".

He basically informs us that suffering is normal and it is not the suffering which defines us, rather it’s the way we deal with it. In a concentration camp every inmate is suffering the same awful life, but the way they handle it varies from stoic selflessness to cowardly betrayal to morbid suicide.

Here is an extract about a conversation between two inmates at Auschwitz concentration camp during World War 2, where Frankl spent much of the war as a prisoner.

"... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

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 still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when 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 meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory...."

…so I’m doing just fine.